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, July 27, 2014

"Cherry Bomb", by J.A. Konrath

Book 6, in the Jack Daniels Mystery

This series has to be read in sequence to understand how ridiculously it evolves throughout its progress. Definitely the stories are not to be taken seriously but rather for they humour and the evil plotting that keep going over the top at every turn.

At the end of “Fuzzy Navel” (book 5) Mr. Konrath left us with one of Jack’s loved one dead. Plainly letting us hanging like that, what an amazing way to lure us towards its sequel….

If you take this series for what it is you will find it is thrillingly entertaining, funny yet terrifying. It feels like a roller coaster ride from start to finish and I couldn't help being at the edge of my seat while I flipped page after page trying to keep up with the multiple twists and turns that kept coming. In this latest Alex Kork is worse than she ever been and half of the story is dedicated to her as she pushed Jack to her limit. Although Jack is her true prey she piles up more random victims you can imagine. She is completely heartless. Jack is drawn ever further into a twisted cat and mouse game filled with blood and too much crude sex…..All the usual players contribute in some ways but the appearance of Slappy’s, a very annoying monkey, did not add any value to the cast and could have been skipped …More and more as the series runs its way it is becoming so ridiculous that I think this whole thing is spiraling downwards.....

Although I still like J.A. Konrath’s humour I admit being gradually weaned from this series and have lost some interest in it. This feeling to withdraw doesn't mean I plan to abandon it but I need to take a long break before picking up the sequel. Too much is really too much I need a breather….:)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"Saints of the Shadow Bible", by Ian Rankin

Book 19, in Inspector Rebus series

This author’s undoubted talent is his ability to set up complex plots and to get us involved without losing our interest. He does this superbly with this latest setting up two parallel investigations filled with suspense. This novel is set against the background of the referendum campaign.

“Saints of the Shadow Bible” explore loyalty of the police force to each other, their duty to the law and the way they fulfill their duty. Malcolm Fox plays a huge part in the mystery. He is tasked lead investigator into whether a fast and loose group of cops in the mid-80’s might have tainted a murder trial when Rebus was a young officer. At the same time the suspense deftly ties the old case into a new one that began with road crash involving a tycoon’s daughter that appears to be more than an accident. We find Rebus and his side kick Clarke called to the scene.

This novel is an immense and intricate canvas of well-drawn characters and two of Rankin’s greatest collide while hunting for the truth. The narrative goes back and forth as the two cases merge and separate then merge again. There is high tension and mounting body count throughout this mystery to keep us glued to every word. This is like a soap opera, the plotting weaved all elements together we have come to love or hate and has been delivered in a tight, quick step prose with a noir flavoured tone. Rebus saved the day and will return soon….stay tune this series is not dead yet.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

"Dominion", by C.J.Sansom

This fiction is a dark and terrifyingly alternative history of what might have happened if Churchill had failed to become Prime Minister in May 1940 and the nightmare scenario where the British people are forced to live under menacing authoritarian rules.

The author weaves a gripping and atmospheric spy story. Our guide through this fantasy is David Firtzgerald, a civil servant, who has hidden is half Jewish identity in order to flourish under the regime. This counter factual concoction opens in 1952 12 years after Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany after a brief 2 years conflict. Although the nation is not occupied it is led by Fascists and is under Nazi’s fingers. The underground resistance is fighting back and it is where David comes in and is tasked with rescuing Frank Muncaster, a scientist in possession of vital information, and smuggling him out of the country.

This story keeps our interest by rotating perspective from David’s point of view and jumping to different players and back to David. There is momentum in this cat and mouse chase that is modulated with interludes giving us pause for thought. The book stands a good yarn and is about 1/3 too long for my taste although most will find it to be well-written and well-plotted. The style is at times ponderous and the key points lack the necessary build up to provide intense suspense but are captivating nonetheless. This novel is also crammed with details and clearly shows that the author has done an enormous amount of research and thinking about this alternate history, he has quite an imagination and a scary one to boot. I like the characterization and once my struggles with each of their back-stories forgotten the “What ifs” kept me from being disappointed and overall can say I enjoyed “Dominion”.

"The Garden of Burning Sand", by Corban Addison

I couldn't help being tied in knots reading this novel although a work of fiction it was inspired by real issues and offered an authentic glimpse into the horrifying world of child sexual assault in the sub-Saharan Africa. This is actually of story of good people struggling to do right in this world.

This novel is a page turner and weaves together romance, family and human rights issues. While exploring a wide range of pressing world topics including the treatment of women in Africa Mr. Addison’s poignant novel takes us from the red light areas of Lusaka, Zambia, to the luxurious rooms of Washington D.C. high ups and to the splendor of Victoria Falls.

“The Garden of Burning Sand” follows the progress in the rape of a young girl with Down’s syndrome and the involvement of human rights lawyer Zoe Fleming who is determined to bring the case to justice. The action is firmly centered on Zoe and is told through her eyes. The plot is well-paced and provides some tension as she teams up with Joseph Zabuta. At every turn the two are thwarted of their investigation and they soon realize the criminals they seek are more corrupt and powerful than they thought. This book is also a riveting mystery.

This story is timely, topical and well- researched and embraces the full sweep of human experience. It deals bluntly with rape, AIDS, superstition and poverty. Zoe is an appealing character. Her interracial romance with Joseph is well handled as is the treatment of his positive HIV status. The story is well- done in setting, dialogues and action.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

`Fuzzy Navel`, by J.A. Konrath

Book 5, in the Jack Daniels Mystery

This is Jack’s fifth outing and once again we are taken on a roller coaster ride where the protagonist is plunged into emotional highs and lows into a scary story with no way to escape and nowhere to run.

This book is nonstop action and very suspenseful. The next eight hours will be the worst of Jack’s life and for shock value we have more insane scenes that we can wish for. Again we have another story that is part murder, part mayhem, as a generous splash of humour and an intriguing cast of characters. What makes this latest drama captivating are the players, some we met in the previous novels and added is a mix of three snipers who started by avenging the rape of one’s wife by killing sex offenders but eventually things turn horribly wrong when one vigilante aimed and killed a cop and enjoyed doing so…. Of course our main players Jack and Herb show up and from then on everything is in overdrive with no time for a breather. Actually I found it overly done and mid-way got tired of the endless shooting. Page after page, short chapter after short chapter this cartoonish freak show of violence is told through each player as it moved along.

Although this is a rather shallow story with no depth I still managed to have a fair enough time and an occasional good laugh. Softening the tension somewhat are the wise cracks and the clever dialogue and I was most grateful for this bit of retrieve otherwise I may not have reached the end. This one is far from being a favourite but having said this I plan to keep up with this series “Cherry Bomb”is next on the list.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"Sarah's Key", by Tatiana de Rosnay

This is a brilliantly and compelling portrait of occupied France during WW11. The plot follows the Starzinski family after the French police raided their apartment on July 16, 1942 and arrested ten year old Sarah and her parents during the Vel’d’Hiv Roundup. In a parallel plot Julia Jarmond, an American journalist is tasked to write an article to honour the 60th anniversary of this terrible day and the subsequent events that took place.

The story surrounds two time periods and alternates point of views throughout the book. The main story and action takes place in Paris and as the story progresses not only do we discover factual information but we also are on an emotional coaster ride.

Sarah’s story is told from the time of her arrest and intertwines with Julia’s quest to learn about the people that had been corralled at Vel’ d’Hiv during “Operation Spring Breeze”as it was known. Despite being 60 years apart they author excelled in drawing the two eras smoothly together. The roundup and deportation of some 11,000 French Jews to death camps is obviously a touchy subject and the author elegantly shines light by carefully detailing the facts about the true events.

Although a fiction, this is a worthwhile novel that approaches the Holocaust in a different way. In whole Sara’s story is a fast-read with tight and brisk chapters. The prose is fluid and strong and her story is engaging, informative and very emotional. She is a strong and adorable character. On the other hand those of Julia are light more chick-lit style and distract from the importance of the main story. I love Sarah’s part but Julia ruined my experience from the get-go. Her personal story was annoying, very predictable and quite cheesy. Her character is inconsistent and superficial IMO.

Having said this I nevertheless like this novel for its message and its frank look at a nation and people who for so long would not come to grip with its complicity in sending its own citizens to die in Nazi concentration camps.

I will definitely read more books by this author

"The Gingerbread Man", by Maggie Shayne

Being a huge fan of suspense thrillers that provide endless action with lots of twits to fools us, have a hard outcome to predict and of course are populated with unusual and charismatic characters and you will find I am a contented reader. “The Gingerbread Man” premise seemed to be right up my alley and I couldn't resist one with a serial killer at the heart fueling every moment with intrigue.


When Detective Vincent O'Mally finds two missing children dead, his life turns upside down. When the FBI takes over the case, Vince agrees to take time off. Traveling to a small upstate New York town, he meets Holly Newman—a fragile woman whose sister was abducted and killed years ago. Convinced that Holly's sister's death is linked to the recent murders, he attempts to unearth clues hidden deep in Holly's mind.

My thoughts:

Definitely borrow this novel:

Although a good enough story for most part it is far from being exceptional. But again did I read wrongly the synopsis and deducted this to be a suspense thriller instead of a romance/suspense….I guess I did… The beat was most likely meant to please the younger crowd and the faithful fans….

I knew little or nothing about this author before plunging into this drama. My first experience although not tragic left me flat. The author’s credits involve a range of romance, fantasy and paranormal novels and I have no doubt she excels there but writing suspense is a much harder task to satisfy a die-hard as myself. Here the tone is set early, although not creepy I could have let myself be haunted by the events covering the abduction and murder of children but the story’s denouement was rather questionable and far from credible. At first I was drawn into this fast moving and captivating plot but it didn't take long to see most twists coming and where we were heading. The story line is by far too predictable and full of plot holes to question. There is some sexual content to distract us from the actual crimes which I would have passed gladly, distracting and non-necessary. I am not fond of weak female characters and here we encounter too many that are set up to be victims, pretty pathetic IMO. The dialogue is rather banal and the vocabulary is better suited for Harlequin romance novels, those filled with lust and little true love …not my preferred style at all. All this said and done, many reviewers have given high marks, I unfortunately am not one that will do so….some you win and some you lose…..

Friday, July 4, 2014

"The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte", by Ruth Hull Chatlien

This historical fiction is based on the life of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte (Betsy) and portrays how this ambitious and headstrong woman will go to all means to achieve her goals: to live in Europe and be part of nobility.

When Betsy met Jerome Bonaparte (Napoleon’s younger brother) all that mattered was marrying him hence it was her chance to fulfill her long-time dream but unfortunately Emperor Napoleon, rejected her American background and never approved of their union. No matter how many obstacles she faced, Betsy never gave up on having her marriage recognized and be part of the distinguished family. She was certainly a rebel for her time so determined she drove herself and everyone around her mad.

Betsy was known for her beauty and to have scandalized Washington with her daring French fashions, to have dine and dance with presidents, visited Niagara Falls, survived cross ocean travels during blockades , lived through the Battle of Baltimore and has spent many years living in Europe.

This novel is truly a wonderful entertainment, well written and offers more than a textbook story. The author brought to life a rich tapestry of known figures and has remained as true as possible to historical events. Created in this drama is a nuance portrayal of a life focused of romance and injustice, vanity, ambition and obsession with rank. Some reader will want to shake Betsy, I know I did. Although the name Bonaparte was my biggest draw to this novel I was pleasantly surprised how interesting every part of this story was. It is evident Ms.Chatlien did a lot of detailed period research before penning this story down and unraveling in an interesting matter a part of history and bringing to life a personage I knew little of.

Once the first page read it was a hard novel to put aside it was just that captivating. Well done.

"A Walk Across the Sun", by Corban Addison

This is a gem of a book, a rare work of fiction about violence, control and profit, a captivating eye opener to the existing horrors of human trafficking. The story is all about young people who are bought and sold for sex.

This is a gem of a book, a rare work of fiction about violence, control and profit, a captivating eye opener to the existing horrors of human trafficking. The story is all about young people who are bought and sold for sex.

This chilling and heart-wrenching tale follows the terrifying journey of two traditional upper middle class South Indian sisters after a tsunami hit the coast of the Tamilnadu shores and drowned the entire family sparing the two teenage girls. Left on their own the girls are soon swept up by ruthless sex-traffickers who sold them as commodities. After reading this story you may agree with me that the greed, the indifference and cruelty truly changes one’s perspective regarding the various aspects of the sex trade. This book is thought provoking in many ways.

The story is not all bleak it also emphasizes on the tenacity of love, the power of conviction and the bonds of family. The sub-plot involves an American attorney whose life is falling apart and decided to travel to India to rescue and rehabilitate young girls from the brothels of Mumbai. His path eventually crosses those of the two girls…..

Even if the subject matter involves sex and violence we are spare the gory details and horror of the sex trade and I found that I was easily drawn into the gripping development till the story line provided a breath of relief at the end. Yes, it’s grim but not painful to read and I found I was soon in the grip of a story filled with charming characters of all kind. The author use of written imagery is intense and vividly portrays both the beauty of India and its culture and the excruciating despair of the brothels.

“A Walk Across the Sun” is very interesting, captivating and worth reading.