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, April 25, 2015

"Reykjavik Nights", by Arnaldur Indridason

Prequel to the inspector Erlendur series (volume 10)

Translating and publishing books out of sequence seems to be the trend for Nordic publishers these days. After so many exciting outings we go back in time to the roots of our famous protagonist. Mr. Indridason has carefully reinvented Erlendur and we find him in 1974 as a young officer working the beat mostly on traffic duty during night shifts and dreaming in becoming a detective one day. Although part of a series this 10th installment can be easily read at any time it stands well on its own.

The multi-faceted mystery centers on both Erlendur duties as a patrol cop and on the case involving the death of Hannibal, a tramp Erlendur is acquainted with. On his own time, Erlendur starts an investigation and finds himself deep into the hidden miseries of alcoholism and homelessness. It doesn’t take him long before connecting Hannibal’s case with that of a missing woman and seeing himself slowly drag into the strange and dark underworld of Reykjavik smack in the middle of a criminal gang.

The story is cleverly constructed, nicely done and pretty straightforward. It starts slowly at first never giving out the obvious or any hints of what to come. This gentle pace is kept till we read the last words. The narrative is clean and the dialogue is what drives the drama. There are some amusing passages, obsession regarding lack of fast food available in Iceland, especially pizza. Fans of this series will notice that this visit to the past reveals a more cheerful version of the older Erlendur and gives us a new insight into his character and what makes him tick. We get to meet some characters that will play prominent roles in his later life and some insignificant ones that will simply disappear to never be heard of.

In “Reykjavik Nights” the first into Erlendur’s earlier days will not leave us wondering. A sequence “Oblivion” should be released sometime in 2015 for the English audience and in this one we should expect our beloved Erlendur to be promoted detective. Never kill a good series, the authors will always find ways to keep them alive and entertaining.

“Reykjavik Nights” is a great addition to a terrific series.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

"American Quartet", by Warren Adler

Book 1, in the Fiona Fitzgerald Mysteries

To appreciate this book we have to remember that it was written in 1982 where social values were different from today's. With this in mind this series is of a white woman, a cop in a force dominated by black male officers, needless to say the officers make her life hell. Those were the days…..but this strong woman holds her own in a world surround with machos and politicians ……Mr. Adler knows his political scenes especially when it comes to Washington shenanigans.

In “American Quartet”, we have some historical events mixed with a lot of fiction and to boot a dose of the egotistical world of politics. Oh yes we have some suspense, thrills, murder and the inevitable mayhem. The plot is complex it involves a conspiracy theory connected to assassinations of Presidents since Lincoln. A killer roams the streets of the nation and the plot takes us on a whirlwind tour of the capital and its famous landmarks. Our tough cookie is the first to piece together the puzzle and of course puts up with the sexist and the now outdated male attitude….The characterization is pretty good the killer is plagued with mommy issues, politicians are self-serving, the partner is opinionated and the boyfriend is an assuming jerk. Boy Fiona is not lucky with the male persuasion….

This book is brilliant in human relationships and is beautifully written with superb choice of words. Unfortunately the story turns in circle, drags and gets boring after a while. The ending is somewhat disappointing. Of well some you win and some you lose but in all it is not a bad book.

"A Dubious Secret", by Gerald J. Kubicki

Book #2, in the Colton Banyon Mystery

This is a series I have been reading out of sequence although this is definitely not the ideal way to understand the progress into the characters’ mind-set, I never felt cheated or lost not knowing what came previously. Each book is working quite well as stand- alone, so no worry if you pick up books out of sync. 

“A Dubious Secret” takes us on an adventure of a missing copy of Mein Kampf, the manifesto by Adolf Hitler. Once more Mr. Kubicki provided a page turner that mixes a bit of history into a highly imaginative plot for our enjoyment and he does so expertly. The very suspenseful story sends Colt and Loni on an incredible journey filled with Japanese Yakuza and Nazi enforcers hunting down our two protagonists. We find action, mystery, a budding romance, many twists and unpredictable turns to keeps us interested and flipping the pages. Of course there is this mystical touch showing up with Wolf and we discover more as the story moves along about the mystery behind Colt’s ghost mentor. In this 2nd installment we get to know the characters slowly and what makes them tick.

“A Dubious Secret” has a captivating story with all the elements needed to make this a heck of a great read: good characterization, excellent dialogue and amusing storyline. I noticed while reading that this earlier book is richer in style, has a less futuristic and sexually oriented scenario that is found in the later installments.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

"Treadmill", by Warren Adler

“Nothing like a good mystery when you’re hitting the gym” I totally agree with Mr. Adler assessment when he wrote these words. “Treadmill” is a thrilling read, only a master storyteller could come up with a suspenseful and unique story where the plot keeps circling back to a Gym.

DC seems to be Mr. Adler’s city of choice to set his imagination in motion. Although this time none of the players are politicians we still find the atmosphere to have a very political tone. It opens on a treadmill, Jack Cooper, recently divorced, finds a lot of comfort in his daily routine at the gym working out alongside others, Mike Parrish is always there on the machine beside him….till one day Mike simply doesn't show up. His disappearance is the catalyst that precipitates events that we follow in this page-turner.

And what a page-tuner it turned out to be, cover to cover of lies, cover-ups, political machinations, deceits etc. not a dull moment and very suspenseful once on the move. This scenario is one that slowly pulled me in but once hooked I was done, hated to put it down so anxious to see what course this thriller would take. What came next did not disappoint, the outcome was unpredictable till the few last chapters when everything led back to the Bethesda Health Club. Now about the characterization, I don’t know how people are at gym but in “Treadmill”, Mr. Adler gave his cast a haunting and surreal behavior.

“Treadmill” is a winner one that can easily migrate from page to screen

" A Dance in the Ashes", by Gabriele Kosack and Gunter Overmann

“A Dance in the Ashes” is a powerful and captivating post-war story of survival, forbidden love and betrayal.

Berlin, summer of 1945, Hitler is dead and the population is fatefully linked against the background of the destroyed capital of the Reich, nothing is standing and people are starving. The story recounts how three of them managed to survive during this tough time: it tells how Mathilde struggled to feed her family and how she coped with the day to day life while Frank, her husband and Gestapo officer, eluded the Russians only to face the Ami. It is also the story of Camillo, a Roma Gypsy and acrobat, and how he helped Mathilde, the wife of his enemy to survive only to use her to revenge the murder of his family.

This amazing story alternates between Mathilde and Frank’s point of views. The sophisticated prose and dialogues bring post war Berlin to life, particularly well portrayed is the degree of hardship the people endured and the description of insurmountable rubble to clear. Mathilde was one of the women tasked to this job and did so in order to feed her family. The characterization is superb. The role played by the cast is not only believable but very moving. It is a wonderful change to see the ravage of war from the perspective of Germans. Human suffering is universal I totally agree with those saying this….The SS officers returning home were not gently greeted most had to go into hiding to escape the Russian’s wrath or simply gave themselves up to the Americans.

This is an excellent novel of courage and determination. Well-done, this is another book I enjoyed immensely

Friday, April 3, 2015

"The Alphabet House", by Jussi Adler-Olsen

This is an ambitious psychological thriller that explores the limits of endurance and the irreparable breaches in friendships. This story is extremely detailed and begins in 1944 in the midst of WW11 when a pair of British pilots is shot down over enemy territory.

Right from the first page I was swept along so absorbed by this fantastic story that I hated to put this book down. It starts with an exciting and very tense sky chase, a losing battle for a RAF plane soon shut down in an area swarming with German troops. The two pilots, Bryan and James, took only a few minutes to escape the search party by boarding a passing train reserved for wounded SS men on the way home from the Eastern Front. Once aboard, the only way to blend in was to pose as German soldiers and feign unconsciousness. What actors, they did such a good job impersonating the men they ended up in a mental hospital for those damaged by war. Mr. Alder-Olsen depiction on how they managed to fool everyone feels so real I couldn't help but to shiver when the staff looked upon them.

This first part of the book relates the pilots’ experiences as one of the malingerers at the “Alphabet House”. The narrative switches from Bryan and James as they undergo electroshock therapy and pop pills like candies. Months and months go by faking insanity but they are not the only ones doing so ….several SS soldiers want to get through the war and recover their looted booty…..and the two pilots so happened to be in their ways……The tone shifts to a breath-catching account of survival fueled with paranoia and extreme emotion. This part is very intense and scary.

In the second half, the narrative switches to 1972 and the plot proceed to bring several of the characters together. This long- deferred day of reckoning starts slowly but soon turns into one of the most daring (although far-fetched ) journey I have read in a long time. There is lots of action and sustain suspense at every corner. This book is quite a page-turner and has provided everything I enjoy in a story.

Excellent reading

"Rebel Queen", by Michelle Moran

                                         Also under the title “The Last Queen of India”

Once more Ms. Moran has brought to life a moment in history and has transported us back in time when the British Empire was setting its sights on India in the mid-19th century. At the time India was not a country but a collection of kingdoms. This historical fiction is of Rani (Queen) Lakshmi of Jhansi, one of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and an epitome of bravery and courage.

Told from the perspective of Sita, the Queen’s most trusted female soldier, the story highlights how the Queen resisted the takeover of her kingdom from the invading empire. She was so determined to protect her country and her people she raised two armies, one male and one female to ride with her into battle and defend the land she loved so much.

The story mainly depicts both life at the royal court and the everyday life for the women in India who had at the time very little freedom and lived in seclusion. In the first part of the book, Sita tells how she was raised and trained to become a warrior in the Queen’s service. In the second half, Sita finds that freedom comes at a cost and must discover whom she can trust from those she can’t…

In “Rebel Queen”, history plays out as the backdrop to Sita personal story and is a deeply moving story that focuses on the characters. Both the Queen and Sita are strong independent characters. This book is beautifully written and the perfect balance between facts and fiction. The author pays a lot of attention to details, especially concerning the colourful sari Indian women wear and their traditional ways of life. Although mostly a fiction this book is an eye opener on how the British took over land, crushed the local culture and set their rules upon the population (at least those still breathing). It also captures the differences with castes and why this still exist to this day.

I am a huge fan of Ms. Moran and I have read and enjoyed all of her books to date. I must admit that if history lessons would have been taught in a lively manner such the author does I would have been far more attentive to my classes….The author did not forget to tells us where the fine line between her imagination and the real events stands and has included a list of references and a glossary to orient us.

Once more, well- done Ms. Moran