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 »

Friday, March 27, 2015

"The Burning Room", by Michael Connelly

Book # 19, in the Harry Bosch Mystery series

Once again, Michael Connelly has written a classy and a clever page-turner and has delivered another captivating story for his fans. In this latest our 64 years old school protagonist is teamed up with a new sidekick, a female rookie investigator named Lucia Soto, who happens to be an expert in new technologies. Harry is making every police minutes count before his retirement working convoluted cases involving murder victims of a long time ago. “The Burning Room” centers on two cold cases.

The first involves the recent death of a paraplegic ex- mariachi Orlando Merced. Rarely does a victim die decade after the crime of complications from being shot. Harry is too pleased to work a case in which the body is still fresh…This task will turn out to be highly charged and politically sensitive.

This swift moving story only picks up speed when Harry discovers that Lucy is investing her spare time on another cold case one involving arson and multiple homicides: an apartment fire that killed several children 20 years ago. After finding Lucy was one of the survivors Harry was even more motivated and willing to go along with her and bend some rules in order to bring closure.

The interplay between Harry and Lucy is quite dramatic and while they are searching for clues in order to solve their cases we are immersed in the minutia of a police procedural making every aspect of an investigation exciting. The addition of Lucy energizes this series, a mentor showing the ropes to rookie and even with some mistakes make her know she has what it takes to be a good detective is refreshing. The ending let us believe Harry may leave (or be pushed out) the LAPD but I do not think this is the end of our beloved Bosch….

Once more, we have a beautifully constructed plot with clever dialogue and crisp prose. Not a dull moment with lot of suspense, many unexpected twists and turns and fascinating tidbits of forensics. An ending that opens the door to new adventures…..we will see if Lucy will be a permanent fixture……I hope so.

Another excellent book by a master story teller

"Saving Ben", by Ashley Farley

This contemporary mystery main aim is to highlight the special bond between siblings and to bring focus on the many struggles one can experience during college life. This is a haunting tale of love, loyalty, anger management, substance abuse and betrayal.

Ben and Kitty are the primary players but Emma is the character to watch for. She is Kitty’s bitchy roommate who brought havoc between brother and sister. Without her this story would not have been quite captivating she is portrayed as a complete psychopath. I love mystery but this one is a bit too soft for my taste, the first half is mainly the set-up of college life: the setting, atmosphere and the relationships, etc. The second half is more dramatic and moves along at a better pace but the suspense is kind of lightweight and the development so predictable I became anxious to see the end. Having said this does not mean it is boring, on the contrary it is quite a sentimental journey.

This lively story is told from the perspective of young adults. The portrayal of friendship and the strong characterization is where this story excels. The dialogue is somewhat stilted although I did overcome noticing this after a while. How Ben slowly spiral out of control, starts drinking, does drugs and argues all the time is especially well represented. The serious problems concerning anorexia as well as family issues are also at the forefront. There is something to please everyone even a murder scene for the mystery buffs to enjoy.

This book should appeal mostly to older teens and young adults and to older adults who which to reminisce about their days in college…

Saturday, March 21, 2015

"The Reluctant Warrior", by Ty Patterson

Book 2, in the Warriors series

If you are an adrenaline junky you will be well served here. We have rapidly moving scenes one after the other with very few pauses in between as breather. It may be a bit much for some but to fans who love hard-core action scenes it is definitely a delight to read. This book is a thriller in every sense of the word and very engaging from the start to finish. I surely got a lot of bang reading this great sequel to the “The Warrior".

The second book is even better than the first. The plot has a lot more energy and heart pounding moments with many twists and umpteen surprises at every corner. Mr. Patterson is definitely in his element writing this type of book. The characters exploits may be a bit far-fetched but action is what this book is all about. Leave aside the super hero antic, the chases and fights that pepper the pages and look for the smart dialogue that brings alive all the characters good and evil.

This time Broker and his team receive an unexpected offer from the FBI’s New York office. Their mission is to flush a mole that has been deeply buried among their rank. In order to do so they take on the number one gang in NYC, the ruthless 5Clubs. As things progresses the story fuels more mayhem and destruction to keep us on our toes and provide all the thrills needed to make reading “The Reluctant Warrior” an exciting and enjoyable experience.

Next to come is “The Warrior Code” .

"Never Surrender", by Michael Dobbs

Book #2 in the Winston Churchill series

This historical fiction is set the first month of Churchill’s premiership during the time when Britain was uncertain if the country had the will or the mean to stand up and fight. The story tells what turned out to be one of the most important three weeks of the twentieth century.

This suspenseful account based on historical events begins with Europe in turmoil. May 10, 1940, Germany had just completed its conquest of Denmark and Norway and has turned its attack to the west by invading France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

This book is character and dialogue driven and beautifully portrays a Winston Churchill who in spite of his bouts of depression, his bad drinking habits managed without support of most of his colleagues to convince and to give his countrymen the will to defy Hitler and to ”Never Surrender”. The story is filled with political intrigue, of internal cabinet dissension and the will of a man that refused to give up. With equal amount of attention and text to the realities on the ground and to the decision makers in London this account deftly moves back and forth between the historical and the fictional.

For those who are not too familiar with WW11 and wonder whether certain characters are fictional or not the author has clearly explained them in the epilogue. It may not be the best for historians but I think most of us will be captivated by the narrative and all the pertinent facts.

If you like aspects or period of events of our past, Mr. Dobbs is an ace in historical reenactment and is one that does it richly with words.

Another great read.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

"Three Seconds", by Anders Roslund & Börge Hellström

Book 5, in the Grens & Sundkvist series

This book is by far from being short in fact it is close to 500 pages of intense reading. The plot is multi-faceted and it takes its merry time to spring into action but once started it crakes up tension and our engagement with the novel. Some entering midstream into this series may feel at a lost since the bleakly eccentric protagonist has a very heart wrenching past which is essential to know.

The novel deals with criminals in contemporary Sweden, the Police and Probation Officials who monitor these offenders, and the government who wants to use them as undercover operatives. The story unfolds primarily in the streets and apartments of Stockholm and in Aspsas prison, a fictional jail not too far from the city. We also have side trips to both Denmark and Poland.

The narrative shifts points of view from Ewert Grens, a Stockholm detective who runs covert operatives to mules who smuggle drugs from Poland to Piet Hoffman, the most valuable undercover operative working as a front man for security firm with Mafia ties and to Erik Wilson, his handler.

When a drug buy goes wrong and a Danish police is exposed and killed while on a sting Hoffman needs to extricates himself from the complicity in the murder and negotiate a deal with bureaucrats. But Grens determined effort to solve the case threatens to expose not only Hoffman but also officials from various agencies involved with the operation. Intriguing enough n’est-ce pas?….well, also a bit complicated…

With the many things going on it takes a demanding but well worth effort to absorb the refined narrative which is quite heavy-handed with information and to get used to the complex style. This book is gritty, violent and unnerving and once the action takes place it becomes exciting and eventually turns into a real page-turner.

"High Heat", by Lee Child

Book # 17.5 in the Jack Reacher series

This novella brings us one more facet of Jack Reacher’s younger years. In “High Heat” Jack is 16 years old and as a teenager is acting way beyond his age, at 6’2” he is fully grown up physically and has already developed the speech, sarcasm, tactics, logic and comments well known in his later years. This book is definitely a marketing tool used as filler till the next installment.

Set In 1977, Jack on his way to visit his brother at West Point takes a side trip to New York City during the time a man gunman known as “Son of Sam” is on the loose. Once there he meets during one of his escapade an alluring young woman in distress. Summer brings extreme heat and soon the power grid is knocked off kilter, lights go out and we have the inevitable city in chaos…In the meantime our two hot blood teenagers do what all teenagers do when they are too close…..and wherever Reacher is peace is just a dream and soon these two manage to step on someone toes and all hell break loose and of course Jack does what Jack does best and we have entertainment lasting till the very end.

This novel is a classic Lee Child with lots of action, sparse but clever descriptions and something fun to read.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

"Paydown", by Nick Stephenson

Book #0.5 in the Leopold Blake Series

There is nothing better than to tease new readers and reward your long-time fans by offering them a freebie. This series have been going on for some time now and writing a novella, the classic style prequel to introduce your next installment is the rage of many authors these days. Nothing wrong with this “Paydown” is a good introduction to Leopold Blake and an excellent mean to get hooked.

In a direct style, this fast-paced and plot driven story is your standard crime thriller and very easy to follow. Leopold is an expert criminologist who teams up with NYPD Detective Mary Jordan in his first fraud and murder case of a high-flying Wall Street investment banker just has the financial world is at the brink of collapse.

The story with a bit of humour moves fluently, no lingo language to make things difficult. The characterization is not original, quite déjà vu in fact, what comes to mind are a couple of popular TV shows playing these days (“Castle” and “The Mentalist”) where the consultant is far more knowledgeable than his sidekick…Here I found Mary to be the most dim witted person I have ever seen. This partnership is far from being harmonious and since “Paydown” is my introduction I am wondering if the annoying squabbling would last all through the series. Having said this, I nevertheless liked it. The drama is very captivating and the suspense was such that it never slowed down.

For a short story “Paydown” is interested enough to see how this series develops.

"Beethoven's Tenth", by Brian Harvey

A Frank Ryan Mystery
Book 1

This is a “ Rapid Reads” , a paperback of 139 pages in huge characters, one everyone could easily zipped through in no time. This book is excellent for readers with short attention spans and for young adult who like a fast paced mystery.

This smart page-turner is well-written with no fuss and no extra words to bog down the flow. It has all good elements wrapped in few words: a piano technician as hero, a mystery around a manuscript of Beethoven’s first three movements of The Tenth Symphony and the required twist to throw us a curve at the end and pique our interest to pursue with this series.

This is an entertaining quick read I am Happy to have received throw LibraryThing’s Reviewer program.

Synopsis copied from Goodreads

Piano tuner Frank Ryan is paid in kind by an aging music teacher with an old manuscript that turns out to be Beethoven's Tenth Symphony. Launched into a world of intrigue and violence, Ryan, an unlikely sleuth, realizes he must use his wits to conquer his enemies and solve the mystery of the manuscript. In the process Ryan discovers who he can trust and what he is made of

"The Society of Orion", by Gerald J. Kubicki &Kristopher Kubicki

Book 1: Weapons (A Colton Banyon Mystery 11)

This book is another short book to join those I have received lately and I thank the authors for providing an e-copy for my thoughts.

Although short just under 160 pages it is nevertheless an exciting and captivating read that introduces a new type of adventure for Colton Banyon and his sidekicks. I have been a fan of the “Dubious” series for quite a while now and still enjoy the adventures although I admit being somewhat delinquent following the series.

When an author changes slightly his style, adds something different and knows how to give us suspense mixed with a tad of mystical power or a bit of Greek mythology while at the same time sending his protagonists on a wild goose chase around the world for ancient artifacts and for more excitement throws in a mix bag of questionable characters. What’s not to like? The Kubickis have mastered this perfectly.

Of course I do admit not to have enjoyed them equally. As for this spinoff it sets things up for the sequels beautifully. My pet peeve here is it leaves us wanting to see the outcome…. (Thankfully I was provided with the sequel (Book 2: Recovery)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

"The Last Jews in Berlin", by Leonard Gross

This is an amazing account and the real-life story of some Berlin area Jews who managed to stay alive in hiding till the end of the war after the S.S. lightning roundup of all remaining Jews in Operation Factory. Such Jews were known as “U’Boats”. This book is based on interviews of the survivors conducted in 1967 and 1978 and is a powerful and gripping portrait of life during WW11.

The author fills in the backgrounds of all these survivors and we follow their travels and observe them under varied situation. Each story is broken into many pieces and the narrative weaves a suspenseful mosaic of experiences. This dramatization is solid and reads like a thriller.

The day to day struggle to stay alive is a harrowing and poignant experience which capped the essence of fear, hunger and desperation to a tee. Being hunted by the Gestapo, the SS and the Jews called “catchers” and still manage to hold your sanity and stay alive all that time is short of a miracle. Thanks to the good heart and courage of some German citizens and members of the Swedish church of Berlin few cheated the gas chambers and lasted long enough to see the Russian invasion and their liberation.

This book is so well-written and captivating it is hard to put down. I do agree with those saying this book is a tribute to the survivors as well as to their protectors.

This is an amazing read I highly recommend.

My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher Open Road Integrated Media for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book

"Enemy in the East", by Rolf-Dieter Müller

This book is a fascinating insight that sheds light on Hitler’s war plans and brings us behind the scenes of the Wehrmacht High Command strategy to attack the Soviet Union from the very start of World War 11 and the risky move that was “Operation Barbarossa”. “Enemy in the East” is a wealth of research into newly and forgotten documents discovered in archives and notes taken from speeches recorded during meetings Hitler had with his military strategists. At the end of the book we have a list of handy references and foot notes at bottom of pages when need be.

The plan to invade the Soviet Union was in the making long before the Nazis came to power. The author brings us back to the 1800’s and to the early 1900’s with an overview of events that took place and have influenced the “Powers that be” later on. Hitler had planned a war of intervention against the USSR long before he seized power and declared the Nazi Party the only legal political party in Germany. We have surprising information how Hitler manipulated neighboring countries into alliance and used them as bulwark against the Soviet Union.

There is a lot said in this book that I will not touch here that is most interesting and educational. To facilitate our orientation since some countries have changed names and borders since, the author has included useful maps to orient us through the maze. I was happy to have them as reference it helped immensely to understand the strategy and the movement of troops along the different corridors.

In short, the author has written a concise yet a very comprehensive analysis of the military mind-set and what motivated them to carry the Crusade against Bolshevism and the subsequent atrocities that occurred.

If you are interested in the Eastern Front War, “Enemy in the East”, is an excellent addition to any library.

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

"Second Son", by Lee Child

Book # 15.5, in the Jack Reacher series

This short story gives of a glimpse of teen-age Reacher when he just arrived with his family at a military base in Okinawa where his father Captain Stan Reacher is to take command of a unit which would take part in an invasion of China, if war is declared.

We are in 1974 an already Jack at 13 displays sharp detective ability, fighting prowess and self-confidence to solve within hours problems. In those few pages Jack manages to send a bully to hospital with broken ribs, clear his brother of cheating charges and lead grown up military policemen in recovering a missing code book. The plot is set at the military base and the players are exclusively military members and their families.

Rapid read indeed, zipped through it in no time. Although too short it was still nice to read a few more things about our hero and get to know his parents and his brother Joe who played a prominent role here. Nothing extraordinary everything is simple and at the point but what it does well is set the scene for Jack’s later life as a MP.

Entertaining enough but worth buying is the big question. I borrowed it from the library….