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, August 29, 2015

"The Secret Place", by Tana French

Book 5, in the Dublin Murder Squad

Miss French took on the world of teenage girls in this latest and has brought her protagonists chasing the whodunit at a plush all girl boarding school near Dublin. A murder was committed on the grounds of school and a group of four friends soon becomes prime suspects. The drama takes place over a single day with a heavy dose of flashbacks to events that occurred the previous year.

Miss French’s books are not a fast read and are pretty much on the long side. She also has a knack for creating layered, multi-dimensional characters and distinctive voices. Some editorial fat trimming could have made this drama a bit less tedious. So, if you are not into long- winded narration coupled with the most intricate and complex plot you may as I did, find this story to drag in many parts. I often felt being string along for over the 450 pages by a story that soon became very boring. The dialogue is strong in teenage vernacular and their obnoxious attitude mildly irritating. I must say the author often writes beautifully capturing the teen appeal and their emerging sexuality but the magic is soon killed by the lack of clarity and the flaws of the minor players.

This is one book to love or hate. My take: this book is definitely a big disappointment.

Friday, August 21, 2015

"Stone of Fire", by J.F.Penn

Book 1, in the Arkane series

Also under the title “Pentecost”

This fast-paced and highly imaginative story weaves a mix of Indiana Jones thrilling action into a tale that explores ancient myths and religion à la Dan Brown.

“Stone of Fire” brings Morgan Sierra, a knowledgeable Oxford individual with an Israeli Special forces background to work with Jake Timber, a handsome Arkane operative, their quest is to find the twelve “Pentecost stones” taken from the tomb of Jesus Christ by the apostles. The stones are alleged to have great power and at least two other groups will go to any lengths to get hold of them also….and the chase takes us on a global trip from India to England, from Italy to Tunisia and from Iran to the US.

Not at all what I expected not to say I didn’t like being push along while being informed at the same time. Ms. Penn is a master in religious information and her vivid descriptions of cathedrals, basilicas and the settings are what brought life to this thriller. This book is a highly fictionalized mishmash of unbelievable occurrences. Although the pacing is right and overall well told my mind still wandered through many parts. I simply got lost in the redundancy and the similarity with other books. The characterization is interesting but really clichéd. The dialogue lacked the sharpness expected in heated moments. Although this story does not make it in my best book of the year list it still offered some great entertainment. It is a kind of story preferable not to take too seriously……

Saturday, August 15, 2015

"Hungry Ghosts", by Peggy Blair

Book 3, in the Inspector Raminez series

“Hungry Ghost” is my introduction to Canadian author Peggy Blair. Was I lost starting at this point?, yes at first, but it didn’t take too many chapters to place the missing pieces together, go with the flow and enjoy this light mystery, one rich in atmosphere and style.

The storyline has three threads:

It begins in Havana with Inspector Ricardo Raminez investigating vandalism at a local museum. The chapters describing the heist are exciting with lots of actions and suspense but things soon peters out and we find ourselves following Ricardo on other crimes involving dead prostitutes. This switching of theme in the second thread brings a bit of confusion and to boot victims’ ghost appearing at Ricardo’s side out of the blue, advising him of impending deaths becomes fast an irritant. The added ghostly touch can be easily omitted and this would not affect any way, shape or form the development of this story. In alternate chapters the third thread brings us to Canada, on a First nation reserve in Northern Ontario with aboriginal detective Charlie Pike on a case of a murder victim whose death may be linked to a serial killer.

When the heist and the whodunits come together the elements of the mystery hold up pretty well. We have terrific characters in both Raminez and Pike doing what they do best in their isolated locations: one in the non-touristy Cuba and the other in impoverished Canadian wilderness. This book is a good read, carefully constructed, complex in many ways and layered with humour. The narrative is outstanding and the dialogue between players highlights the author’s expertise in the art of interrogation and shows how knowledgeable she is in the Aboriginal culture and ways of life.

“Hungry Ghosts” is a gritty and a chilling read of two detectives against an international serial killer

Monday, August 10, 2015

"Poison Pen", by Sheila Lowe

Book 1, in the Forensic Handwriting Mystery

Mystery novels have always been at the heart of my reading and of course my preferred chose. It is very refreshing when one comes along with a new storyline and definitely having a forensic handwriting analyst teaming up with a detective should do the trick. What makes this novel interesting above all is that the author, an expert in the field has skillfully injected into her plot fascinating information about the intricacies of graphology.

This crisp and gritty novel is a well- written story populated with many intriguing and richly drawn characters. The protagonist, Claudia Rose is an intelligent, resourceful and above all independent person who often assists the police in analyzing and identifying the writer and his/ hers psychological state at the time of writing. The story is slow going at first but once it bursts into life and gets its going beat we are into a plot filled with action admirably paced. For excitement, a few twists throw curves to derail us, some include blackmail, violence and all that good stuff needed to make a mystery a very suspenseful one. This turn out to be quite a page-turner with some graphic scenes, it may be a little salty at time for some but if you are not into murder mystery this whodunit may not be for you.

I surely enjoyed following Claudia and trying to solve the mystery along with her.

"A Dubious Race", by Gerald J. Kubicki

The Phoenician Stones

Book 14 in the Colton Banyon Mystery series

Once in a while I let myself be entertained by sci-fi action novel and no better move than to choose one from the Colton Banyon series. The story is wacky enough to be captivating and yet not too ridiculous to lose interest, well at least most of the time. “A Dubious Race” excels in offering a tad of history along with a thrilling mystery.

Not all the books are equal but this one makes good marks for having kept a steady pace and injecting unpredictable curves throughout. The race to secure the stones is the highlight in this far-fetched story around who may have first discovered America, an adventure filled with action and there is a lot of it. Unfortunately what still bug me after so many novels are the macho and dimwit characterization of Colton and his team of overly sexed women. They are right out of the past century and need to be worked over and brought to date, they are not funny anymore. Having said this, I nevertheless keep reading their escapade. After all, this fantasy works well if you let your imagination travel with the flow, don’t take it too seriously especially with talks of Freud-a-sizing aspects and enjoy it for what it is.

“A Dubious Race” is an entertaining novel and I am looking forward to letting myself be transported into another sci-fi fantasy soon.

Monday, August 3, 2015

"One Mile Under", by Andrew Gross

Book 4, in the Ty Hauck series

This long-awaited who done it mystery takes us on a journey were farmers are pit against an energy company supporting fracking exploration in Colorado. In spite of the story there is a great deal about the process for extracting gas and oil from shale rock by injecting water, sand and chemicals into the rock. Although a fiction, this story surely made me wonder about this type of process. This latest thriller is one that includes a great deal of useful information.

I missed those 5 years between installments, reading this latest was getting back with an old friend although this time in a whole different setting. This is a straightforward mystery that tells what desperate people would do for water and the bargain they are ready to make. In hush-hush fashion the dealings with the instigators are kept out of the limelight.

I wondered in the few opening chapters where was Ty everything was about Dani Whalen , a white-water guide and a friend found dead of an apparent kayaking accident, then another accident involving another of her friend. It took for ever before TY showed up to save the day. Honestly I really didn’t miss him. Dani was an excellent player, a feisty and smart girl that entertained and captivated me throughout, at least for the first part of the novel. Then the superhero showed up but what did we have: a lesson on fracking…..and harping on the process. There is limited action, yes a few thrilling moments but suspense is rarely felt and the whole experience lack the luster of a real mystery. There is way too much turning in circle, coming back to the same old points. It seemed the pages needed to be filled. Frankly by then it was time to reach the end I was losing so much interest. Not my preferred novel and this by a long shot.

Whether we are for or against fracking this story will at least make you think of its consequences.

"The Drowned Man", by David Whellams

Book 2, in the Peter Cammon Mysteries

This second edition although part of a series can well be read on its own have no fear if you pick this one up first you will fall right into a dazzling game of cat and mouse that carries Peter from Canada to England to Washington and be swept away in one of those elaborate plot and a true spy adventure.

The twisting and complex drama effectively captures some aspect of police work and opens with Peter once again lured out of retirement to handle an assignment: accompanying the body of a murdered Scotland Yard officer from Montreal back to England. As expected things is never simple and soon everything spirals out of control and an investigation is launched.

As the game goes on, we are challenged with diverse threads that weave in and out: some incorporating bureaucratic infighting, some murders, others referring to Quebec’s separatist movement, some to the theft of letters from the Civil War Era signed by John Wilkes Booth. Mr. Whellams did not forget to include the wiretapping scandal and inducement to throw cricket matches in England to his heavy but captivating story and to spice the story even more we have Alice Nahri, a ruthless femme fatale, looming over the investigation…..

There is a lot to absorb in this novel and even more a plethora of players to keep track of. The author did not forget to stress the political and language atmosphere in Quebec. For that reason some may find the opening chapters to drag and the first quarter to be ponderous and frustrating. But when the perspective shifts the story develops its momentum and becomes fascinating. This novel is well-written, the narrative rich, the dialogue superb and the characterization outstanding.