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, September 25, 2015

"Mr. Mercedes", by Stephen King

Book 1, in the Bill Hodges Trilogy

A hard-boiled detective book is definitely not what I had expected Mr. King would have come up with next. This new genre received positive reviews and won him the Edgar Award in 2015 for Best Novel.

This story is so different from is standard “horror stories” it is hard to imagine that this cat and mouse game about a psychopathic killer (Brady) and a renegade cop (Hodge) could have met my expectation. It did and much more. This is a fascinating story that takes the old detective genre to the next level. Let’s not think Mr. King left scary parts aside, after all he will always have a scary side. Adding a sociopath on a rampage can be characterized as “horrific” for anyone and is predictable King-isms at its best. The story is tense, ultra-fast and has a collection of expressions handled with a machine-gun prose. It has a bit of mishmash of jargon and the tone may be infuriating at times although I surpassed this very quickly. The set is staged by alternating between Hodges’ and Brady points of view and this richly layered savvy story, a showdown between good and evil is an excellent addition to my library

“Mr. Mercedes” is an entertaining and engaging ride.

"Two Days in June", by Andrew Cohen

John F. Kennedy and the 48 Hours that Made History

This story is a riveting and beautifully written narrative of two consecutive days in the presidency of John F. Kennedy. The days were June 10 and 11, 1963.

There have been many books written about JFK some say more than 40,000 so why another one? There will always be someone digging deeper who will find new tidbits to bring to light in the life of one of the most iconic American president of modern time. In “Two Days in June” Mr. Cohen brings an original perspective by adding a compelling detailed analysis in an eventful chapter in Kennedy’s tenure: his most important speeches that would change the outcome on two important issues: nuclear arms control and American society’s racism. Later to be referred as the iconic Peace Speech and the Civil Rights Act.

Meticulously researched, this book is heavy in information and details on those two days. It tracks the President’s every move and explores mainly the context of the speeches and how it came to be. The tension leading to the public addresses is deftly captured and in proper historical context. We also have a glimpse into many personalities surrounding the president: most importantly, his brother Robert and his speechwriter Ted Sorensen. The President had a myriad of other issues such as: conflict in Vietnam, equal pay for all, his physical condition, his gossipy social life, daily swimming lesson and afternoon nap just to mention a few. All this information comes from rare sources such as documentary, interviews, diaries and official White House logbooks etc. The book doesn’t miss a beat and goes on and on.

It must have taken the author exhausting time to put all this together but also rewarding to see the end result.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

"The Cleaner", by Mark Dawson

Book 1, in the John Milton series

Although this is numbered as the first in the series it is actually the second book, ” 1000 Yards”, a novella is the prequel, a short story that introduces us to the protagonist. There is no need to get to it first “The Cleaner” stand on its own but I have been told reading the prequel does help to get an idea what John is made of before the main story kicks in. I admit not having read it but it is on my TBR list and I should get to it pronto.

At first I had mixed feeling about this mystery. It started pretty slowly but eventually moved along at a better pace and I eventually got hooked and stayed with it till the end. The story is of an assassin working for a shady government organisation run by a man known simply as Control. In “The Cleaner” John is struck by a fit of conscience, quits the Firm and starts a new life by helping a woman and her son Elijah. The story is a bit dated: set during the London riots we see all through the saga our protagonist facing street gangs, drug lords and the most exciting part in this adventure is the cinematic confrontation between John and a former colleague but it does come with predictability you see this coming from the start. The experience is a bit cliched and has a déjà vu feeling about it but this is easily overcome. The dialogue sounded authentic but may be hard to follow at times for those who are not familiar with English slang and street lingo. Overall, the language is clean, the plotting is good and since we have very few players this is one mystery/thriller easy to follow.

In all a good read

"Playing with Fire", by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

Book 2, in the Claire Abbott Mystery

I received an advance copy from Orca Book Publishers for my thoughts. Being a “Rapid Reads” I knew the story would have been short (120 pages or so), simple (no dictionary needed) and easy to read (huge font). According to the publisher this one is at level 2.8 and targets an audience mostly of young readers and those still young at heart. I enjoyed having them in my collection to zip through them when press for time or when my mind is preoccupied.

“Playing with Fire” continues Claire’s dramas as a small-town reporter with a sixth sense. Her first outing was in “Search and Rescue” published in 2014. Now in her latest Claire seeks an arsonist before he ends up killing someone.

This story has some intrigue although it was quite easy to figure who is the real culprit. For obvious reasons we find little character or plot development. Having said this, I did find the story to be cute and captivating. Her next outing will be in 2017 so stay tuned.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

"Dead Man's Footsteps", by Peter James

Book 4, in the Roy Grace series

It has been a long time between books and I had forgotten how a master Mr. James is at juggling plot threads, this time he treats us with four different events.

This blend of fiction and myth skilfully uses the chaos and tragedy of 9/11 is its early set up and recounts how Ronnie Wilson took the opportunity to fake his own death and leave all his trouble behind to rebuild a new life. On the other side of the pond, the body of a young woman is found in a storm drain in Brighton and Roy is called to investigate. The third tale is of Abby, a very careful young lady scared of making any sort of move…and last we cross to the other side of the world to Australia where a grim discovery if found in the boot of a car.

These four events crisscross each other in alternate chapters while we have a protagonist dealing with the politic of his day to day life. These brilliantly complex plots tend to pussyfoot here and there but eventually everything meshes beautifully into a more tightly woven police procedural. Seasoned buffs can easily see how things develop but will be a treat for the novice. Keeping everything respectful while providing a realistic and exciting storyline is definitely not a problem with Mr. James, he does that in a skillful and expert manner. We have good dialogue, great characterization, climatic scenes and enough suspense to keep going and very well entertained.

"Storks in the Sky", by Carol Ann Dobson

What an interesting and captivating historical romance story this turned out to be. I am not usually attracted to this kind of novels preferring mysteries and thrillers above all. This was a wonderful step out of my routine.

Set in North Devon during the 18th century the writing has a literary style to reflect the period and shows the author’s wide range of knowledge. The plot is strong and the writing is passionate particularly when detailing Sarah and Jean Luc, the protagonists’ feelings. Once the flow take its wings there is so much intrigue following the saga Sarah faces after taking her mistress identity at her death that it is hard not to keep flipping pages from then on. Even after the slow beginning and the few confusing chapters at the start I am glad not to have been influenced by this. In introspective I could also say this is a story that slowly turns out into a feisty historical romance……ah!!!!!

All through the novel Sarah is portrayed to be a tenacious but very scared woman and her state of mind is well delivered. The second important player is Jean Luc, a dashing French cavalier from the Alsace region who happens to be rich. The characterization is great even the multiple secondary players we need to keep track of.

No sex scenes just plain old fashion romance, boy runs after girl. Girl plays hard to get but succumb to his charms at the end……wow great…and they live happily ever after……

Saturday, September 5, 2015

"Direct Hit", by Mike Hollow

Book 1, in the Blitz Detective series

This new arrival and the debut novel is a perfect combination of history and mystery. This police procedural set during the London Blitz provides an adrenaline rush from start to finish and has kept me engrossed in the characters as well as the ways of life of a city under attack.

This is a page turner written by a talented author that knows how to turn a storyline in one that will grab you from page one. The protagonist Detective Inspector John Jago shares his work with us as we follow him through the different steps of his investigation and through war torn scenes during the first night of the Blitz. Blackouts after all are a good cover for all sorts of criminal activity. It is fascinating to see how Jago tackles the case of a man found dead in a van whose body gets obliterated by an enemy bomb before he could get the investigation going. This story also incorporates a mixture of real-life and fictional locations and East London finest hours is brought to life with searchlights, sirens wail, air raids and people ducking into bomb shelters with the hope of coming out in one piece. This is a well- written crime story that also includes for good measure a twist by inserting a feisty American journalist into the folds. The characterization is warm and engaging. There are no dull moments even if at times the pacing is rather on the slow side (slow and steady). The narration and dialogue are nostalgic and reflect the time and circumstance, we have some emotional details throughout.

I certainly stayed involved from the start and enjoyed immensely this new addition to the crime world

"The Winter Crown", by Elizabeth Chadwick

Book 2, in the Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy

This engrossing story opens in 1154 with Eleanor’s coronation and soon plunges us into a rollicking drama where a Queen struggles to achieve some element of equality with Henry, a man with trust issues and completely unable to delegate, in fact a very dangerous ruler she has as husband. “The Winter Crown” follows “The Summer Queen” and magnificently explores another tumultuous period in her life. The story focuses mainly when Eleanor was in her prime years and gave Henry child after child.

Even if this is a fiction the story has an authentic feel to it. It is a thrilling and breathtakingly credible version of personal tragedy. The portrayal of each character and the events surrounding them brings history to life with insight and emotional intensity and makes reading “The Winter Crown” a page-turning experience. Ms. Chadwick imaginative flair paints a rich, vivid story and brings vigour and life into a well-known Queen. The prose and dialogue are light and natural. The everyday life in the court of Henry is not boring, everyone had their use and everyone had a price. The conflicts are passionate and it is very easy to dislike Henry and his overbearing ways and sympathize with Eleanor. It is especially fascinating to see how she played an important role in the feud between her husband and their sons. We also have the drama surrounding Thomas Becket and Henry’s romantic affairs. The novel ends with a captive Eleanor sailing back to England and her destiny will be unveiled in the 3rd installment “The Autumn Throne”.

I appreciated the author’s note enforcing where the known part of history crosses the imaginary and where she enhanced her storyline in order to make this novel a treat for us.

This is a captivating read delivered by a master.