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, November 29, 2014

"The Invention of Wings", by Sue Monk Kidd

This fiction is inspired by actual historical figures and is the extraordinary story of struggles for freedom. Set in South Carolina in the early 19th century this powerful novel tells the story of four women from Charleston, Sarah and Angelina Grimké, two sisters from a prosperous white family and Hetty and Charlotte, a black mother and daughter who are the house slaves. They all share the ardent desire to break free but for different reasons.

Drawn from the Grimké sisters’ real-life as abolitionists and feminist this moving and gripping story of urban slavery is a rich depiction of the lives of free women imprisoned by the lack of rights. Hetty Handful and her mother Charlotte are fictional persona and compelling characters representing trapped individuals in a household where cruel punishments and abuse are frequent.

The plot unfolds in alternate chapters and weaves the voices of two verbally narrators: Sarah Grimké, and Hetty Handful. The language is exhilarating and emotionally entwines early on. Hetty’s voice is colloquial with occasional dips into nonstandard grammar while Sarah’s voice is by far less colourful but still holds a punch. Through their eyes we are shown a long and painful voyage…

This thought-provoking story not only depicts the brutality of slavery in vivid and meticulous detail but also openly displays the greed of men and the will of women clamped shut by law, society and religion….

This is a riveting page-turner from book end to book end. In the last chapter the author’s separates facts from fiction and explains why she distorted and enhanced portions in order to make this a more enjoyable read.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

"A Dubious Position", by Gerald J Kubicki and Kristopher Kubicki

Book 7, in the Colton Banyon Mystery

This is a series easily read in no particular order and after three books I can assure they are an interesting and captivating read from start to finish. On one hand, “A Dubious Position” has kept the series’ mystical tone while on the other hand has distracted us with original ideas and providing a suspenseful and fast moving plot populated with a mix of mysterious and appealing main characters. This latest definitely has a strong blend of old-time male fantasy and a lot of sexual innuendo

Once more, Colton has to face one crisis after another that needs to be solved and with the help of his usual team and of course Wolf the ever present spirit to guide his every move and make everything go smooth and be successful. The adventure takes place on both sides of the US/Mexican borders.

In this story Colton works for the President as a contractor for a prestigious law firm who employs the strangest of characters: nuns, priests, illusionists, porn star, and a young athletic woman. They are there to assist Colton on covert operation sanctioned by the President. Their mission is to prevent Nazi operatives intermingling in the Mexican and the Unites States affairs. These characters spoiled the pot for me. They are a bunch of starved sex individuals acting like idiots, totally unprofessional and very annoying. This aside, I like the steady pacing, the short chapters straight to the point narration, and how the author has weaved into his plot a humorous side with the more serious situations.

Although I found parts unappealing, at the heart, “A Dubious Position” is quite exciting and is one I enjoyed nevertheless.

"Dark Digital Sky", by Carac Allison

Book 1, in the Dark Pantheon Series

This series is contemporary pulp with a tech undertone, quite geek noir and somewhat of a thriller. The story is quite innovative, a bit twisted and intense at times one that explores the threats of the digital world. The characters are definitely pure fiction. Its main character is hard to like, a bipolar, manic-depressive, a man controlled by drugs and drinks and one that lies to get to the truth.

The main story starts simple. A Hollywood over-wealthy personality contacts Chalk, an ex-FBI agent currently a PI who is very successful in his private business work. His request is to find his 3 sons that he’d fathered through a sperm bank many years ago. He is dying and wants to meet his sons before it is too late. Eventually the story moves on and the three young men are recruited in a conspiracy that includes crashing drones on US soil.

Mixing into the main plot at different stage of development is a plethora of distracting subjects: a story around a Japanese sword, lots of geek techno talk, movie buff talk, dog fighting sidebar, world of wrestling sidebar and a lot of other gibberish.

I had issues with this novel from the start. The story is rather disjointed and the style is too clunky for my taste, lots of 2-3 words sequential sentences starting with pronouns such as “he” and “it”, I found this annoying and distracting. We have chapters jumping from one place to the other and at one point I lost track and interest. There were too many irrelevant characters introduced throughout, each with their own story to confuse the whole thing even further. This first book is a real Smorgasbord of ideas none really developed. I didn't like this book not to say it is a bad one it was simply not my cup of tea. I prefer my mysteries or thrillers to be more focused…..

On the other hand the author’s knowledge in computer science and in the artistic world is highly noticeable and may be a joy for some readers. Not being that much interested in either I skipped most of those numerous paragraphs to try kept up with the main theme which is quite captivating nevertheless….

By the end, the door is left wide open for a sequel and I reiterate some of the thoughts I share with other reviewers: leave the buffet aside and consecrate skills and wits to one recipe….

Thursday, November 13, 2014

"Martini Regrets", by Phyllis Smallman

Add caption
Book 6, in the Sherri Travis Mystery Series

I love this whodunit series it is so fun to read and a great escapism. Things do not always work out for Sherri and it is a thrill to see what twists and turns fate has in store for her. She is one woman who seems to always be in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

This tingling misadventure takes Sherri along the Alligator Alley, smack in the middle of the Everglades stuck at a gas station after her truck was carjacked and all this at midnight. Alone and scare she fears for her life when she stumbles across the body of a man….then the story transports us from the gritty crime scene to orchid ball in Sarasota to finally wrap up on a remote island in the gulf of Mexico.

It is enjoyable when a series has a continuing storylines with the characters and manages to stay fresh with the next adventure. Ms. Smallman takes her ideas from real time events that made news headlines and whips an exciting plot with eccentric characters to entertain us. The plot is certainly original and centers mainly on the murder and a missing black orchid. This latest page turner sends our amateur sleuth in a mess where obsessive collectors have one agenda…..

“Martini Regrets”, is an easy and fast read very hard to put down. It has the same beat as the previous installments so if you enjoyed them you will also enjoy this one.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

"The Boy in the Striped Pajamas", by John Boyne

This is an unforgettable and a small wonder of a book. A Holocaust drama that explores the horror of WW11 seen through the eyes of Bruno, the eight year old son of the commandant at a concentration camp called “Out With” and of a Jewish inmate of the same age called Shmuel.

The strength is in the narrative which mires the preoccupations of child’s curiosity and interest in the high-wired compound inhabited by sad people in striped pyjamas. It is an effortless read that puts us directly into Bruno’s and Shmuel’s worldview.

Bruno is an explorer by heart and after doing so around the house he decides to do some of the area. After an hour or so he discovers Shmuel, a boy behind the fence in the camp. They start to talk about their life and every day they meet at the same spot. Till one day, Shmuel’s father goes missing and Bruno wants to help his friend find him. He changes into the striped pyjamas, climbs under the fence and explores Shmuel’s world……

This fabrication of the author’s imagination is elegantly written and very moving. Although not particularly graphic or dark it will nevertheless leave a deep impact in any reader’s minds. Mr. Boyne is a master in depicting the setting and capturing the character’s emotions. The style is meant for the eyes of Young people therefore it may seem a bit simplistic for grown-ups, so with this in mind be prepare to read a sanitised version of the period, one with little historical significance and enjoy it for what it is.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

"The Orenda", by Joseph Boyden

“The Orenda” is a fictionalized account that takes place in central Ontario around the mid 1600’s and covers the last years of the Huron Confederacy after they have formed a trade relationship with the French and before their dispersal by the Iroquois.

The story is told from three perspectives and this multi-narrative technique works especially well re-telling the same episode from each point of view. In no particular order, the narrators are: Christophe, a francophone Jesuit missionary: Snow Falls, an Iroquois teen kidnapped by the Huron and Bird, a warrior mourning the death of his family. In a haunting manner,Mr. Boyden expertly evokes and mirrors the cycle of destruction. The novel is punctuated by acts of cruelty, savagery, torture and climaxes in a bloody battle, definitely not a story for the squeamish. It is written with unflinching honesty to convey the complexity of the colonial experience and chronicles the mounting rivalry between the Nations, the process of colonization, fur trade, the effect of Christianity, deaths by small pox and other diseases, and the competition between the French and English settlers. A lot of attention was given to detail and I really wonder if the Haudenosaunee and Wendat Nations are truly represented? Or is this simply a well-written, highly imaginative, and pleasant reading material to trump the uncomfortable examination of colonization.

Having said this, “The Orenda” is nevertheless a wonderful tale of spiritual conflict and a real page turner.

"Refuge", by N.G. Osborne

Book 1, in the Refuge Trilogy

“Refuge” is a touching, timeless and unforgettable love story set in the mystical and seething city of Peshawar, Pakistan. This story was inspired from experiences working as a young aid worker teaching school in an Afghan refugee camp and the author’s words truly shines throughout this wonderful book. Although a fiction this novel seems quite real.

This brilliantly romantic drama showcases a world where the right to love is lethal and freedom for women is non-existent. The author’s superbly evokes the atmosphere and intrigues of a city where everyone has their own agenda. This story is more than entertainment, reading between the lines I couldn't help but to reflect on what is important in life. How different conservative Islamic world is to ours. This world is such a dangerous place where nearly every man carries guns, where a war rages nearby and where nearly every woman hides behind burqas. If we think women have a hard time you be surprised to read men have an even worse one. 

“Refuge” is the perfect title. In the story the main character Charlie provides a refuge for the Khan family, a place in his home where they can feel safe. That is where Charlie and Noor Khan share their emotions and be honest with each other. So this classic love story takes us on a perilous journey through Pakistan and Afghanistan…..

“Refuge” has a riveting and well-developed scenario. Its pacing is brisk, full of nerve racking action and populated with wonderful multidimensional characters. If you can surmount the idea that this novel is riddle with old clichés and being hung dry at the end (cheap ploy) you should enjoy this page turner. I am looking forward to“ Resilience” its sequel.