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, October 26, 2014

"The Dragon Head of Hong Kong", by Ian Hamilton

Book 0.5, the Ava Lee prequel

The same as every other book in the Ava Lee Series this novella also has a life of its own. The storyline answers the question every fans of this series may have been asking: How Ava and Uncle first connected and answers our curiosity concerning Ava’s early life. 

Although this is the shortest of all the books so far, the length does not diminish the strength of the story. The plot is what drives the story and its simplicity shines through its characters. In this story, Ava right out of school has opened her own private firm when one client who has been swindled needs her help. That brings her to Hong Kong, is plunges into a dangerous game and meets Uncle, the man that will for ever be her saviour.

This is a fast read, with simple language and one totally captivating. This series is fun and I highly recommend it for those who enjoy mysteries out of the ordinary featuring a 115 lbs Chinese-Canadian kick-ass forensic accountant with ties to an elderly Hong Kong man who may be close to the Triads.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"The Sound of Things Falling", by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

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This is a gripping novel, very absorbing from start to finish. This is a page turner that describes Bogota and the Colombian life in a well-constructed plot that neatly and carefully meshed the country’s violent past with present elements. This beautifully written story explores the aftermath of the toxic effects of the drugs trade.

“The Sound of Things Falling” is the story of Antonio, a young professor in Bogota, who loves to unwind playing billiard at the end of his day’s work. There he befriends Laverde, an older man recently released from prison. One day standing on the street the two gets shot, Laverde is killed and Antonio severely wounded. From there on, the story focusses in the bewilderment and fear of a society corrupted who has been taken over by force. This story takes us on a powerful visual journey through lush mountain landscapes and the bustle of city streets. There are lot of emotions but does not become heavy-handed. The style is fluid, the pacing is steady, and the descriptive passages are stunning and very intense. The characters are well-rounded and their memories resonate across this powerful and profound story. I love this book everything shines: the characters, the scenes, the dialogue, the details and the gritty reality that has its own persuasive magic.

This book is totally captivating and one I enjoyed immensely

"Wonder",by Dominique Fortier

This is a three part novel that brings to life a cast of characters both historical and fictional and opens with a much too formal and opulent narrative to have piqued my fancy but this doesn't remove the interesting points it may have tried to convey.

The first part “Monster and Marvels” is based on the true story of Baptiste Cyparis, an Afro-Caribbean man who was recruited by the Barnum & Bailey Circus after he survived the apocalyptic eruption of Martinique’s Mt. Pelée in 1902. At first this captivated me but it unfortunately petered out in no time and I “wondered” what went wrong and how come it left me so flat.

Then we suddenly move to the second part, “Harmony of the Spheres. In a style effortlessly precise and rather poetic we fall into a kind of puzzle hard to understand. Its characters Edward and Garance, are an eccentric couple both gifted and very strange. Edward, a mathematician, has a compulsion for numbers and it was quite a challenge to attempt understanding where this story was leading. In fact I never did and again I “wondered” why.

And finally everything seems or wants to come together in “Love and Waves”. Set in my hometown of Montreal this last part is the encounter between a young woman and a man whose quiet courtship is based on routine and solace. Unfortunately by then I had lost all interest and my patience was at its end. As I reached the last words, I no longer “wondered” why these stories couldn't take hold of me…… and finally I could move on.

This novel is a real concoction and a very unsatisfying one. The story is convoluted, wholly unaffecting, populated with lazy and boring characters. Whether I wasn't in the mood or simply couldn't grasp the essence, this novel simply never managed to hold my interest. It was hard to connect the dots and make sense of the whole thing. Was this book too original or maybe the style too flowery? If you like verbose description this novel may be right up your alley, it definitely was not mine. Did things get lost in translation, I doubt it…..

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"The Goldfinch", by Donna Tartt

This is most difficult to be concise when a book is almost 800 pages long and to boot is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction but I will do my best to be short and sweet. “The Goldfinch is a sweeping odyssey of loss and obsession where people do strange things in the aftermath of tragedies.

The author’s engineered plot opens with a catastrophe, an explosion at New York’s Metropolitan Museum where 13 year old Theo Decker and his mother where enjoying the exhibition of the Dutch Golden Age, mostly admiring Carel Fabritius exquisite tiny oil painting of a goldfinch. His mother is killed but Theo is spare although disoriented and feeling claustrophobic he manages to comfort an old man who entrusts him with two objects: one is a signet ring and the second is the canvas of Fabritius “The Goldfinch”.

With a sustained and sprawling narrative Ms. Tartt expands her drama with her main character tormented by the memories. Down the years as he grows up Theo clings strangely to the captivating painting and glides in strange places that will make him travel from New York to Las Vegas and Amsterdam and ultimately bring him into the criminal underworld.

It takes a steady patience to read this book, there are so many details to get lost in, it was rather frustrating at times: Ex. long scenes of furniture restoration although what save it for me was the art-heist action with shootout, fancy cars, the Slavic gangsters and all that good stuff a plot driving full of energy brings. The novel connects with the heart as well as the mind and it reads with a mixture of terror, excitement and expectation. It is slow to build but is eloquent and assured. It combines vivid characters, mesmerizing language and breathtaking suspense.

Only a skilled master could compose such an absorbing old fashioned story. It is of no surprise this machination of fate was a winner.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

"Not Dead Enough", by Peter James

Book 3, in Detective Superintendent Roy Grace Series

This is a perfect holiday read and certainly a pager-turner. Although early on into the mystery it is quite easy for any experienced crime fiction reader to pin point the few flaws and to figure out what is going on from the get-go. With this said we still have a plot above the run of the mill standard, one that offers plenty of thrills and spills, intense police procedural, colourful local details, sympathetic main characters, a memorable sidekick, an assortment of creepy miscreants, and the obligatory love interest. 

This densely woven tale raised Mr. James’ game in terms of style and pacing with three murders to solve, one suspect and absolutely no leads. Once started this drama is an all-nighter… be warned …this is a long novel taking its time before it fairly rocketed along but I assure it doesn't take many pages before being pulled into a complex plot that draws its strands from all parts of Brighton society. 

It begins with the murder of Katie Bishop. The prime suspect is her husband Brian, but Brian has a solid alibi. When shortly after Sophie Harrington, Brian’s love interest is killed. Brian’s every move is under the magnifying glass. The chase for the truth is on and makes for one very exciting and captivating read…it doesn't stop there another body is found….and many more twists comes our way…Roy is sure by now that Brian is the murderer…..but of course why stop there Mr. James knows how to dramatize every step and he does that with expertise. We have a side bar that brings Roy looking for his missing wife in Munich and of course this to the chagrin of the delectable Cleo, Roy’s love interest…..a bit of piquant is in order here…. 

“Not Dead Enough” is very captivating from start to finish. I would recommend following this series in sequence to understand better the progression in the main characters’ lives. I loved this one and I will be looking forward to its sequel.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

"The Madmen of Benghazi ", by Gérard de Villiers

This is a fast read, short in content, fast moving and full of explicit sex. Mr. de Villiers who died 2013 is a prolific French author with hundreds of spy novels under his belt “The Madmen of Benghazi” is the first English novel available in Canada although his books have been around in French for a long time. It introduces Austrian nobleman and freelance CIA Malko Linge as the protagonist and he is the one who commands every move in this particular story.

Set in Egypt and Libya in the aftermath of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s death the story centers on the fight between Islamic groups and the CIA. Written in a low potboiler style, this thriller is a bouillabaisse of intrigue, current events, humour and old clichés. The plot is pulp-thin and is littered with unresolved episodes although it did lead to a poignant ending. The description of Cairo and Benghazi exceeds expectation and is what holds this story together. I liked Malko’s character, he is cold blooded and views people as pawns, an excellent choice for an operative but as for the rest of the cast they are only sketchily developed.

With all its flaws this thriller was good entertainment and a fair read that captured details of the espionage world and the gritty political affairs.

"Search and Rescue", by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

This is a Rapid Reads, a 100 pages mystery and an excellent book for those just looking for a fast read. This is the first novel in a series featuring journalist and sleuth Claire Abbott.
This book is definitely not taxing, a good story with not fuss and lots of suspense. We follow Claire on a snowy chase up a mountainside looking for a young woman gone missing on a nature trail.

The mystery has an engaging story line with good characterization and is nicely written in a simple prose. Although way too short for an avid reader it is nevertheless a captivating read to be enjoyed