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, December 27, 2014

"To Parts Unknown", by John Anthony Miller

This is a WW11 novel set in Singapore and Indonesia that tells the story about ordinary people who are compelled to do extraordinary things.

The story brings a British war correspondent George Adams to Singapore during January 1942. Shortly after his arrival there, he is caught in a near fatal air raid, while in the underground shelter he meets Thomas Montclair, a French spy and Lady Jane Carrington Smythe an English aristocrat and their meeting triggers a chain of events. Written in the first person this suspenseful novel takes its three main characters on a harrowing journey as they flee the Japanese while overcoming a multitude of obstacles including demons of their own. As the title suggests they are not quite sure of their destination…what to expect….and how to face the numerous challenges known and unknown…The prose reflects the horror and fear they faced…..

Although a fiction, the timeline and military events involving the fall of Singapore and Java and Sumatra are real but the story is based entirely on the author’s fertile imagination. This is a real page turner and very suspenseful as we follow the trio in a nightmare that has them evade a manhunt that spans the islands of the southwest pacific.

For war junky this may not be the perfect book but for suspense lovers it provides a plot that keeps a slow and steady pace, a kaleidoscope of death, dreams, nightmares and desire filled with conflict and passion. This is definitely a story with a mix of everything…The characterization is well drawn out, the players feel quite realistic and down to earth. I like the way the relationship between them evolves throughout the adventure and I especially loved the ending.

Great first book and hope this is a start of endless adventures…

My thanks to NetGalley, Smith Publicity and the publishers Taylor and Seale for the opportunity to read this book.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

"Leningrad, 1943", by Alexander Werth

Inside a City Under Siege

This book is a harrowing firsthand account by British correspondent who was the sole journalist allowed to be in city during the blockade. In his book the author goes to great length to document the city’s struggle while the inhabitants faced the savagery and the aggression by the Nazi forces where an estimate of one million people lost their lives mostly from starvation. This brief visit took place in 1943 and is a record of what he saw and heard from survivors.

I found this book fascination in many ways the four days he spent travelling across Leningrad each step he described was reliving history. Mr. Werth went in great details sometimes overloading us names of streets and buildings and comparing what he saw at the moment with his memories of the city he loved and lived in as a child before the revolution. While his visits were to different locations, all interviews shared the same experience: famine, continuous shelling and death. What come to light are the survival strategies that was adopted during the siege by the ordinary people such as workers, the heads of industries, the local authorities, and of course the soldiers. Although not enough, one positive effect the Russian winter froze Lake Ladoga and created a life-line over which caravans of trucks hauled a meager amount of food and supplies and also provided an evacuation route for thousands of the city’s weak and elderly.

This book is both informative and moving in many ways but the endless visits to schools, factories, camps and conversations with functionaries became redundant and taxing. It is evident the culture in Leningrad at the time was highly artistic, people still enjoyed books, theater, music and Mr. Werth doesn't shy away from describing plays and authors he enjoyed. There is a lot in this book actually I would say an overwhelming amount of information to absorb in too little time.

On this I say: Bravery and collective courage of the whole city deserves to be welcomed for eternity.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher I. B. Tauris for the opportunity to read this book.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

"The Remedy for Love", by Bill Roorbach

Have you ever been stranded in a snow storm where the thermometer has dipped below the freezing point. It is so cold you hear the sound of gunshots but actually it is the sound trees make when their bark expands. To boot it is pitch black outside, your only shelter is a dilapidated shack in the middle of nowhere and you share it with a person who hasn't wash in weeks…. You will experience every bit of this and much more in this fiction.

Strange enough this is not a horror novel but a love story featuring two individuals, Eric and Danielle, not tailor –made to get along but rather to hate each other….well at least at first. Being thrown into a cabin with the Storm of the Century raging may bring surprising emotions. Both these characters are distinct, fascinating in many ways and never act as anticipated, there is always a spin to what they do. With no place to go Eric and Danielle’s narrative becomes quite intimate as they slowly reveal themselves to each other. The author’s share their story in a refreshing and unexpected ways and conveys their secrets through back story that fills the pages. I am certain Mr. Roorbach has experienced a winter storm: the description of the blizzard’s torment is artfully depicted. This tale weaves equal part survival adventure, romance and comedy into a colourful tapestry of nature scenes and this is where this story excels.

On the other hand, parts of it didn't quite feel believable and at times the meandering style was so repetitive and disjointed it was hard to keep focus. With this said the story has its merits in originality and reading it I felt strongly the urge to put wool socks on, a tuque, mitts, and parka and wrap myself in a cozy down duvet.

"The Lincoln Myth", by Steve Berry

Book #9 in the Cotton Malone Mystery

“The Lincoln Myth” talks about the Church of the Latter Day Saints and its involvement with the nation's history and who else but Cotton Malone to get involved and thwart the threat to the integrity of the United States.

Being a huge fan of Mr. Berry I expected a good deal of history being combined into a crisis. In this latest the plot has twists and turns carefully thought over. The action careens from Denmark to Austria to D.C. to Iowa and Utah and is interspersed with interludes from the Lincoln’s era. This is definitely more of a challenging intellectual thriller than the previous ones. One of the problems I had was to keep track of the speakers in order not to get lost and keep everything straight. After all I know little to nothing about Lincoln, the Mormons and the various conflicts such as the Civil War, the revolutionary War and Abraham Lincoln’s involvement. Of course here we have a wealth of real and fabricated history and it is especially difficult distinguishing where one ends and the other begins. We have thanks to this story a ringside view to the evolution of the Mormons and its growth into a worldwide religion.

At the heart of the novel is a plot coming from an extremist Mormon group to unhinge the United States. Malone risks life, liberty, and his greatest love in a race for the truth about Abraham Lincoln —- while the fate of the United States of America hangs in the balance. The pacing clipped along nicely with pleasant enough ebb and flow of action, story and historic aspects. Although it is hard to visualize that this powerful country was on the point of dissolving. This supposition was quite intriguing. Of course, the action finally builds to an overly neat resolution in the wilds of Utah and all is right.

Unlike the previous book, I was disappointed with this one. It rambles on and on and hashes the same story over and over again. I found the mystery very thin, contrived and anti-climactic. I slogged through many parts, contemplated abandoning it many times but still made it to the end…..not my preferred one and by far.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

"Washington Masquerade", by Warren Adler

Book 8, in the Fiona Fitzgerald Mystery Series

This is my first experience reading this author and my first book from this series. Although not always a good idea starting with the eight installment, there were no issues in doing so. I immediately felt at ease not knowing anything about the protagonist or her previous adventures. Since the author doesn't linger on the past and goes straight to his plot with no fuss, bells or whistles it is an easy story to get into and enjoy the hours spent reading this high class suspense mystery.

“Washington Masquerade” is a complex and interesting police procedural that takes the paranoia in Washington to a totally different level. The protagonist, Fiona Fitzgerald is the daughter of a senator and a Washington homicide detective. She is with her partner Izzy tasked to investigate the death of Adam Burns, a prominent Washington Post columnist and a strong presidential critic.

Adam Burns was wearing a disguise when he was pushed, jumped or fell in front of a subway train. Half the book is dedicated to figuring out why he disguised himself and by the time the investigators unravel the clues I had a really good idea what may have happened and who may have been behind his demise. I couldn't wait to see if I was right or wrong. Along the way we have law enforcement rivalries, the media sharks looking for a good take, the partisan and political interference and all the good stuff we may visualize happening in Washington. I like Fiona, she is an odd bird, a strong character used to get her own way and not very politically savvy. Both the main plot and sub-plot are quite interesting and the setting is none other than fascinating. Do not expect a fast moving deployment this story is as slow as snail, quite repetitive but nevertheless captivating from start to finish.

I enjoyed my first experience and I am looking forward to read more of Mr. Adler’s creativity.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

"The Counterfeit Agent", by Alex Berenson

Book #8, in the John Wells series

This latest adventure re-assembles most of the author’s familiar cast of characters and sets them on a race against the clock. This series has taken John all over the world but this time the focus is on Turkey and Iran, where a nuclear plot may or may not be taking shape. The premise in “The Counterfeit Agent” is far from original although Mr. Berenson has given it quite a personal twist and along the way has provided us with a well-crafted thrill ride and a believable act of betrayal.

This novel’s arc takes John through a treacherous twisted world of spies. The author knows how to pace and provide a plausible plot and like the previous books his grasp of geopolitical realities and the murky politics is highly noticeable. We have all the machinations we can imagine coming from Langley and the self-serving professionals jockeying for advantage. John is getting older but still is a killing machine, which has endured torture, been wounded, was injected with poison and yet he manages to pull through to take another mission and save America from going to war. This story is action packed, mimics what we suspect is happening in the real world and is full of surprises. Although many issues are solved, the ending a cliff-hanger leaves us there to find out the resolution…so stay tuned.

Although this book is entertaining, I prefer my story not to leave doors wide open and force my hand to see the outcome. After a strong start and keeping a steady pace the unfinished ending was such a disappointment that I can say this latest was not my preferred adventure and this by far...maybe rehashing the same old theme is getting stale and I need to break free from this in order to enjoy Mr. Berenson again in the future…..