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 »

Monday, September 29, 2014

"By Its Cover", by Donna Leon

Book 23, in the Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery

Ms. Donna’s latest inspiration comes from the recent real-life thefts from the Girolamini Library in Naples and has finely offered us a tale that includes theft, blackmail, violence and murder. A rare book thief is the target in this latest installment.

This is a thoughtful and leisurely read that emphasizes on the way of life of Venice as much as on the crime, although as a fan since book 1 it is of no surprise to have anticipated this would be the case. Ms. Leon has followed the same formula for years now.

This old fashion detective is well aware of the corruption and class divides in his society and regardless of pressure coming from all corners he will find the truth. As in her previous stories the sense of place is exceptionally strong but lack a little on the investigating techniques. Brunetti meanders around Venice a lot and loves to describe what he sees and eats. In addition to the usual cast of characters in Brunetti's professional and private life, there are staff members at the library, a shadowy ex-priest who has been using the library as a refuge and reading room, and other temporary and permanent citizens of Venice. The book is just the right length to carry the story but short enough not to be taxing our endurance although it does leave loose ends and finishes too abruptly for my taste. The narrative is lively and is sharply written in a serene tone, the style is more intellectual and literary than some of the previous installments, and this is one improvement I appreciated the most.

“By its Cover”, is the standard Leon’s with these exceptions: less family interaction and description of food. This is a good and fast read.

Friday, September 26, 2014

"Empress of the Night", by Eva Stachniak

A novel of Catherine the Great book 2

Based on Catherine’s memoirs, this second novel seems more of a literary novel than anything else. Its approach is quite daunting and has less of a straightforward narrative than “The Winter Palace” had. Told through a series of vignettes that shift back and forth in time the princess on her death bed recalls and reflects on the key episodes of her reign. This complex and psychologically intense novel of a woman in charge of her destiny should have been a very captivating read….but

The pussyfoot narrative left me baffled on too many occasions to have keep my attention at bay and I had a hard time focusing on what should have been an intimately captures of history’s most fascinating monarch. The flashbacks lacked coherence. The narrative was very choppy on many occasions and the prose did not flow well throughout. The whole book was a mishmash of frivolous events and Catherine’s boring love affairs. I was expecting to read the greatest challenges Catherine had to face and how she positioned herself. What we have is Catherine’s long stream of incomprehensible babbles for too many pages…..

This said ¾ into the book I abandoned it……

"The Third Son", by Julie Wu

This novel is the debut novel for Ms. Wu, a vision she had years ago of a little boy in Taiwan. After years pushing words around it finally was published. Her best source was her father’s vivid memories of his unhappy childhood. He became Saburo Tong, the third son in this beautifully written fiction.

The family saga begins in 1943 when the Americans bombed Japanese occupied Taiwan and effortlessly we slip into Saburo’s world, an emotional journey, where he is cruelly made the scapegoat of his family. With great authority Ms. Wu depicts the tumultuous and violent period of Taiwanese history when one autocracy replaces another. The riveting blend of lives governed by family tradition and culture and the determination of boy to free himself makes one of the most beautifully written story I have read in a very long time. The story has two parts: the first takes place from 1943-1957 in Taiwan and part two is the adult part: takes place from 1957-1962 with Saburo in the USA.

The tone of the novel isn't melancholy but optimistic and gay. Not only the plot is well developed we have a compelling themes of sibling rivalry and romance. In addition the characters are well- defined and believable and it easy to cheer for Saburo, dislike his family, and admire his virtuous girlfriend. I love books written in the first person, it is deeply effective.

This book is a page-turner, a rich and luxurious read I enjoyed immensely.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

"Prayer", by Philip Kerr

Mr. Kerr’s latest is a creepy and baffling standalone, a kind of mishmash of horror and mystery. Reading this fright-filled meditation on faith was similar to watching a supernatural scare show. The central theme is religion and faith. It is of no surprise some reviewers highly praised this thriller and others simply found the premise to be unbelievable, rather uncomfortable and genuinely disturbing.

The backdrop is the metropolis of Houston and in the town Galveston shortly after Hurricane Ike. To make things spooky Galveston is a ghost town and the action take place in a mansion owned by a priest (Amityville). The melodrama begins beautifully with an exciting police procedural and gradually morphs into a modern Gothic horror show with boogie, devils and all the works. The sharp turn towards the supernatural takes place towards the end of the novel and gives us a genuinely scary atmosphere. We have excellent scenes where the Angels of Death shows up and some scary chases. In whole, I found the plot to be slow moving and offered a medley of events that seemed to go nowhere. This is one of those novels with big ideas about religion and showcases it evil. This is quite a moody and though provoking addition to Mr. Kerr’s library. The narrator is the main character, FBI agent Gil Martins, an atheist who struggles not only with his faith but also with his marriage. The characterization and dialogue are standard versions, nothing spectacular.

In a nut shell:

When Gil’s friend, the worldly Bishop Eamon Coogan, asks him to look into the curious deaths of some prominent atheists, Gil suspects that they are being murdered by members of a fundamentalist mega-church and he is soon drawn into a mystery that defies both faith and logic….

My last words:

I was captivated by this psychological thriller for most of the book but dreadfully disappointed in the denouement.

"The Assassin", by Jay Deb

This is Jay Deb second thriller “Contrived” being the first. I received this book some time ago and luckily I had put it aside to read some others I had in backlog. This was a good move. Apparently, the first edition was riddled with errors and needless to say annoyed more than one reader. A later revision was issued to correct what reviewers had noticed and this is the version I read and I hardly noticed any of the slipping mistakes, if any at all.

With this cleared up. “The Assassin” is a real page turner and I am impressed how this author has grown since his first attempt. The style is still a bit chaotic and the dialogue too sophomoric and needs to mature subsequently. Not knowing anything about the CIA’s world I was easily drawn into the fast paced and gripping suspense and there is a lot of it. The characterization is varied and we have a very riveting lead man. The plot is good but is the run of the mill storyline with many gaps for us to fill and few flowery details to trip over.

Overall this novel is entertaining and is a thrill for anyone who enjoys fictionalized stories around of CIA and its operatives those hunting terrorists planning attacks in order to kill as many US citizens as possible.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"Edyl-Island of Immortality", by Mark Capell

Book 2, in the Edyl series

This futuristic tale leads us on into a very spooky maze were we find a scientific discovery to be in the hands of totalitarian mind-reading government. Every year WOCO (the world government) nominates people to compete in the Edyl Olympiad, the prize is immortality and the right to live in the world’s most beautiful place…..

Freaky and entirely original I admit to this, but did I like it, my verdict is: not really, not to say this is not a good read, for some it will be for me this whole drama was way too far- fetched and I never managed to get hooked enough to enjoy this concoction. R77K is a though reader who delves into the minds of a rock singer, an athlete and a mechanic and reports his findings to his handler. The whole story is a sort of mind tug of war between the players and is the meat of this sci-fi. To appraise the selected candidates, determined their fate is all about control…. What is anticipated on Edyl is of course not found (very predictable outcome)…...and is the start of many problems and mysterious happenings…

Some more of my likes and dislikes all mixed:

As in his previous novels, Mr. Capell style is smooth and flows beautifully to the end. We also have a diverse and a fun set of characters facing powerful forces. This story is entertaining in many ways but IMO it missed the appeal a good psychological suspense/sci-fi brings. There are no twists that I care to remember but sci-fi is what it is…..highly imaginative totally ridicule and freaky to no end. What else can I say?

This one was definitely not my cup of tea…..but it may be yours…..

"Diablo Nights", by Carmen Amato

Book #3 in the Emilia Cruz Mysteries

I am totally hooked and I have been looking forward for more ever since I read “Cliff Diver”, the first book in this captivating series. Not only is the 3rd installment an excellent addition to any library it is most of all a great companion to enjoy for many hours.

Ms. Amato fluid style of writing is so visual and realistic it is hard not to be mesmerized by Emilia Cruz, Acapulco first female detective, while she overcomes challenges after challenges in a world filled with threats, one deep into Cartel violence, corrupt cops and gang war. To bring the readers to speed we have tit-bits in Emilia’s past involvement and enough information on each character to feel at ease and enjoy the drama. There is no time wasted, right from the opening page we are plunged into intrigue and endless action. With sharp and witty dialogue the author brings to live police-procedural and Acapulco crime scenes. To lighten up things humour and romance are masterfully weaves into the mystery. What shines the most is the characterization. Emilia is a kick-ass, no non-sense individual who is deeply religious and very close to her family. She is often tormented by the horrors she comes across doing her job. There are a few secondary players but the best are Kurt, a gringo whose steamy relationship with Emelia is a treat to follow, the love-hate one with Franco Silvio, her cranky partner, and the highly frustrating rookie she is tasked with.

In this latest, the deadly combination of a religious relic from Mexico’s Cristero War and a cruise ship murder propels Emilia into a maze of drug and smuggling and revenge killings. Acapulco is not only a city for tourists with beautiful beaches and a majestic blue ocean it is also home to hookers and thieves and Emilia has to juggle her way around all of this.

Well-done, another excellent read.