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, June 27, 2015

"Broken Harbour", by Tana French

Book 4, in the Dublin Murder Squad series

Each time I read review I learn something new I never paid enough attention to notice that Ms. French uses a nifty trick of extracting a secondary character from her previous book to put him as the narrator and test him by events she had in store for her current endeavor. I admit not to be a faithful fan and having taken a long break before picking up “Broken Harbor”. This hiatus was exactly what I needed to enjoy and be deeply engaged by the story.

Detective Michael Kennedy (Scorcher from the previous novel) and his newbie partner Richie Curran are handed a horrific case out in one of Dublin’s dying estates built during the housing boom: the Spain family has been slaughtered. It is up to our loveable detectives to delve right in and piece everything together …. Or so we think…

The plot is exciting and a well-crafted detective story. The first part of the book is the set up. We follow the police procedures and slowly the buildup comes along and we have some interesting observations about murder and how people behave. The interrogation phase unfolds at a leisurely pace and plays a good part in this mystery. Then we move into a full page-turner mode and everything gets more puzzling with each new twist. Scorcher’s voice is outstanding and the prose is vividly brilliant. This novel is not only a complex mystery it is also an interesting and chilling metaphor for mental illness and depression. The protagonist’s past (a sub-plot) is quite effective. I also would say that Ms. French vision of Ireland in post economic collapse is fascinating.

Enough said

"The Romanov Legacy", by Jenni Wiltz

What happened to the missing fortune of Nicholas 11, the last tsar of Russia? No one has yet solved this mystery till Natalie Brandon, a schizophrenic since childhood, believes the account exits and knows it can be found….but Natalie is not the only one wanting to get hold of it. The Russian Prime Minister Maxim Starinov also has his eyes on the treasure and has all the resources and power to obtain whatever he wants.

By far from being an historical fiction this action-packed story is more a thriller tempered with ghostly visions than anything else. In my view, this is highly fictionalized and has little to do the Romanov true drama. I was disappointed to notice this but again I should have read the synopsis better. The historical figures could have easily be replaced by whomever and still be a good novel.

Having said this, the story has some merits: We find a tale that unfolds smoothly and a narrative that is clear and concise. Each step is easy to follow, we do go back in time and forward to the present in alternate chapters as the rumour of the treasure passes down from generation to generation. Natalie’s nightmarish visions are well done although it gave a sci-fi feeling to the experience. Everything was a bit farfetched. The characterization was good but not out of the ordinary: the good guys were the run of the mill, the bad guys as expected had a typical tenacious style to them, forget about the historical figures they were in names only. Read this novel for the suspense but definitely not for its historical values.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

"The Lady from Zagreb", by Philip Kerr

Book 10, in the Bernard Gunther series

After 10 books Bernard is still my favourite character. It might be that the first person narrative is by far my preferred style. Bernie in his soft voice talks to you all through his adventure, a mission that takes him from Berlin to Zurich, then to Zagreb and to the brutal killing field of Croatia.

The story begins in 1956 with Bernie reminiscing events of 1942 and 1943 and with his dreams he brings us at the height of the war where he showcases his daily struggles to live in Germany during that time. Bernie a former wise-cracking homicide detective who hates the Nazis is forced to run errands for the notorious Joseph Goebbels and in this latest is tasked to convince a young actress, Dalia Dresner, a Switzerland resident to return to Germany to star in a propaganda film. But things get personal between the two and Bernie falls head over heels in love with the diva.

This is a stylish novel with an easy narrative and clever dialogue. I love Bernie he is a romantic figure that doesn’t always behave heroically and his cruel sense of humour is what make this character compelling. “The Lady from Zagreb” seamlessly blends lots of imagination with harsh historical events. It is quite a mix of excitement, intrigue and murders. This novel contains priceless moments and the author has once again treaded a fine line by incorporating in his mystery genre novel the ludicrous aspects of the Nazi regime. Although this story moves at a slow pace and there are no real who-done-it moments and even less action scenes it is nevertheless a tremendously enjoyable and thought provoking read.

Bernie will return in 2016 in “With the Other Side of Silence”

"The Warrior`s Debt", by Ty Patterson

Book 4, in the Warriors series

Mr. Patterson is in his element writing a combination of psychological crime and action thrillers. This series is one of the best in my books and I have enjoyed every one of the 4 installments to date. They are awesome thrillers and “The Warrior’s Debt” is a very gripping read and a book that could stand its own for the novice to this series.

This action packed and sharply crafted story is more of a mystery than a thriller. The plot is exciting and highlights the hunt for a serial killer that is growing increasingly brutal with each kill. Of course the NYPD investigation is going in circle till Zeb Carter, our protagonist, puts all his skills at work to apprehend the killer and bring him to justice…simple….Till Mr. Patterson takes his story to dark places throws in a few twists, changes directions, inserts more action, adds interesting and unusual situations. When describing action scenes, the one word and the one- sentence paragraphs convey beautifully tension we expect in a thriller. The style is clear, the dialogue is sharp and entertaining, the plot is captivating and the characterization is well drawn. I love to see their development growing with each installment and still have something unexpected to offer. This is one series that does not let go and is getting better and better as it progresses. Well-done.

Monday, June 15, 2015

"The Society of Orion" book 2 by Gerald J. Kubicki and Kristopher Kubicki

Book 2: The Recovery

This second installment continues the saga from book one “The Weapons” and plunges us like its predecessor into a whirlwind of adventure. This is a light and fun read that tells a story of the pursuits of the Orion talismans.

True to their style, the Kubickis have mixed a tad of mystical into their protagonists hunt around the globe in search of powerful artifacts. Not forgetting to add lots of deceit, double crosses, traps and of course a good conspiracy does not exist without panoply of bad guys. Whispering in Colton’s ears is Wolfe guiding him through his every move and the humorous antics of the trustworthy Patel sisters and of Loni Chen are once again at the forefront. We find a little bit of everything familiar efficiently weaved into a fresh story. This novel is excellent for young readers. The pacing flows well, the narration is smooth, the dialogue is quite active and the characterization is light and comical. One irritant, once more the authors have used the tactic of ending short and leaving us hanging at a very exciting moment forcing us to follow up with the next installment. Is this good or bad?......

Short and sweet this installment if worth given it a go.

"The Last Eagle", by Richard Turner

“The Last Eagle” kicks off right from the start and the action never stops, this novel is a real page-turner, an excellent adventure that takes us back to the late 1920 during the Bolshevik Revolution.

The story is fast paced and exciting. I really enjoyed every moment it is such a hard book to put down. Early on we are introduced to Captain Christopher Sheppard, an experienced soldiers and your classic hero. With Harry Campbell, his trusty aid and chauffeur, they soon find themselves in a lethal cat and mouse game facing enemy agents and deadly adversary as they cross Europe, Russia and Mongolia to rescue a descendant of the tsarists dynasty.

I loved this book but it needs some improvement, what is annoying is a story that flips from one character to another simply with a new paragraph, a bit confusing at times. Minor repetitive words in the same sentence should be illuminated. With a few tweaks here and there this would be an awesome story. Apart from these minor points, the novel is smooth to read and the story is captivating from start to finish.

Having said my pet peeves, now I will provide more good points: no doubts this is a gripping story with fight scenes that are very visual and seem quite realistic. We find a whole raft of well- developed characters including nasty opponents and charismatics good guys and of course at the heart of this drama are two damsels in distress.

“The Last Eagle” is a good novel that focuses on the plotting and is action driven. Without any doubts this is my kind of novel.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"The Surfacing", by Cormac James

“The Surfacing” is a psychological novel about how a group of European sailors looking for Franklin’s expedition lived together after getting lost in the Arctic. They set sail in 1850.

This story is austere to read and I struggled to keep focus all through this drama. It begins with the ship, Impetus, leaving Greenland and navigating north till it gets stuck in pack ice where it remains for the rest of the story. Each chapter is dated and tells the day to day life aboard the ship during the two years the Impetus was trapped in winter’s grip. What gives this story an edge of expectation is when Morgan, the second in command realizes that on-board there is a pregnant stowaway disrupting their male world and that he is the father. The sharp prose is very poetic and is fabulously detailed, both in its historical research as well as how it depicts the harsh landscape. How many nuances can one give to ice and snow without being repetitive? Although this grim multi-layered subject moves in slow motion it nevertheless excels in fictionalizing the hope, hardship and heroism of the men.

In a few words “The Surfacing” was too tedious for my enjoyment, too obscure to have kept me captivating from the first page and like the high Arctic left me cold by the time I reached the ending. This novel was by far not my preferred book this year but again this is only the way I see it. You may have a totally different opinion.

"Leaving Berlin", by Joseph Kanon

For those who love spy thrillers stage in the aftermath of WW11 “Leaving Berlin” brings us to 1949 the year of Berlin Airlift, after the roads and railways were closed and the city was partitioned into sectors. You needed to cross checkpoints to travel between East and West Berlin and this if you were permitted to do so.

Alex Meier is the main player, a novelist and refugee who has returned to Berlin after being expelled from the USA. The communists greet him with open arms but soon the CIA will offer him a deal he could not refuse…..Alex becomes a pawn in a chess game…..

This plot left me hot and cold, the first part I really didn’t know where it was going I found it babbled for long period and the dillydally around became an irritant. Was the plotting to intricate or simply too confusing for me I cannot confirm or deny this. I had a hard time getting through half the book and I almost gave up how much this plot was dragging along. The second half was better crafted with some old fashioned plot twists, some great setup and chocked with historical details. The author has mixed fiction and facts seamlessly and finally gave his story a note that rang true and basically made it believable to a degree. This book is also heavily populated with a toxic mix of interests: good guys and bad guys take your pick but it is a challenge to know which is which….The writing style is unusual and the dialogue is particularly staccato, it takes time to get used to both and by then I had happily reached the conclusion…..

Not my preferred spy thriller but not to say it is a bad one and this by far, in fact many readers have enjoyed it immensely. This book is simply not my cup of tea but it may be yours