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 »

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"Fractured", by Catherine McKenzie

“Fractured” is a psychological thriller written from the first-person perspectives of both Julie and John, two different characters who plays a part in finding out what really happened and why. The story is structured, alternating in a year-long countdown toward a present-day courtroom drama. There is much to delve into and a challenge to keep up with what is going on as it keeps on switching back and forth and dilly-dallies into frivolities at each chapters. One year in the lives of a family and neighborhood friendly or not inhabitants keeps us guessing or rather in my case left me out, I totally lost interest after the first few chapters.

The story centers on solving a puzzle: a car accident of some kind, what exactly occurred and who was responsible. A promising premise and some parts were amusing but the plot is too fragmented, the style lacks consistency and too many pointless players populate the story. Call this book “Desperate Housewives” or “Snoopy Housewives” and you would have a better idea that all through the books people are spying on each other and the neighborhood busy body blabbers out whatever the imagination permits. Welcome to Cincinnati…..

Please don’t shoot the messenger, I know I am not being fair here, lots of people gave this book high mark and probably their views are warranted. No doubts, if you like to decipher every clue and determine the outcome before the denouement this is a book for you. “Fractured” definitely is not my preferred book.

I received this book from Lake Union Publishing via NetGalleys for an honest and unbiased review

Saturday, December 24, 2016

"Beach Kill", by Phyllis Smallman

Book #2, in A Singer Brown Mystery

“Beach Kill” is set on a Gulf Island of British Columbia and follows “Long Gone Man” although it is nice to read series in sequence it not necessary to do so here, the second book works pretty well on its own.

Ms. Smallman has once more penned down a nail biter. It all starts when the body of a teenage girl is found on a beach. As we follow Singer, not so much homeless in this drama, we gradually discover why she has the knack for being in the right place at the wrong time and why she goes digging for secrets. Singer is slowly becoming a crafty sleuth poking her nose where it does not belong, sometime opening a can of worms and leaving no stone unturned, placing herself in danger in order to get to the bottom and get justice. Exciting: yes quite a page turner also. Of course to spice up the story, we have a budding romance between our protagonist and the handsome RCMP officer…. We simply need to stay tuned till the next saga to find out the outcome. (Can’t wait).

I am partial to the author’s style: a simple and light narrative, a fast paced storyline that includes many humorous twists and has plenty of suspenseful moments, one that is populated with colorful and eccentric characters and to top it all provides a captivating saga that grabs you from the start and never let’s go.

This new series has the same beat as the “Sherri Travis Series”, but with a new local, a new protagonist and a fresh storyline… Well-done.

Thank you Ms. Smallman for ARC

Sunday, December 18, 2016

"The Murder Game", by Julie Apple

Julie Apple is the pen name of Catherine McKenzie

The story is of protagonist Meredith Delay, a successful Crown Prosecutor in Montreal who handles many homicide cases in Canada’s second largest city. In “The Murder Game” Meredith is assigned a particularly troublesome case: the accused is none other than her law school friend Julian McCarthy who admits to have committed the murder. Julian will be represented by Jonathan Sayers, another law school friend.

The storyline as two distinct timeline and works seamlessly as it goes forward and switches back and forth from the trial in 2007 to the law school days 1995-99 where the McGill students became a tight-knit group. This is a largely humorless story narrated in the grim voice of Meredith. As the story progresses we discover why she is so much in a funk. Definitely there is a mystery right from the start and discovering what it may be is the fun part. But the trouble with this mystery is to get there……“How to Get Away with Murder” is really the basis of this story….once we get there…

Ms. Apple (McKenzie) has made the city of Montreal and some interesting key points in the country history a vibrant background for her legal drama. Her expertise working in the legal system in Quebec and her intensive research have abled her to make the courtroom aspects flow smoothly although I thought the scenes were rather on the drab sides, by adding some American style dramatics into the mix Ms. McKenzie could have pinned down a more captivating saga. The author is well- versed with the city and understands the nuances in the two cultures (English and French) some aspects may slip those not familiar with Quebec past and present but still makes for a light and entertaining read.

Although this is a good story, it is misses the punches others have managed to do in legal thrillers. “The Murder Game” is very predictable and is for my taste too much the run of the mill chick-lit drama.

I received this book from Lawsome Books via Netgalleys for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

"Long Gone", by Phyllis Smallman

Book #1, in the Singer Brown Mysteries

Ms. Smallman definitely writes pretty darned good mysteries. Her popular Sherri Travis series has been an Award winning series for years now. I read all the installments with much interest and stayed captivated all along. In no time I became a huge fan of hers and I stayed faithful from day one.

Although Ms. Smallman is spinning a totally deferent web of intrigue with this new series, her trade mark still shines: a style that is sharp, funny and keeps a steady pace throughout. While moving her action from the sunny beaches of Florida leaving bartender Sherri behind she leads us to the beautiful BC coast of Canada and is introducing us to an eccentric new character Singer Brown, a hippie living in a beat-up van, who sings on the street for coins and nurses an old hate from the time she joined a rock band way back during the flower child era. Singer has an obsession: Johnny, a man she hates and plans to kill after she steps on Glenphiddie Island where he lives. Hold and behold someone has already beaten her to the task and not long after her arrival she finds herself at the wrong end of the stick …..I will say no more……

When you have suspense doled up in addictive doses that provides lots of excitement and intrigue, which has tidbits of scary stuff including spectacular sceneries, one where the drama is played out by original charismatic characters, and to top it all up you find a stirring love story you have in your hands a pretty good book. This is what “Long Gone Man” has to offer.

A caution: You need to pay attention as bits of the story are revealed chapter by chapter and more and more characters are added to the mix with their own stories. In this nasty web of intrigue some of threads are left to our imagination till the very end……

This is a gripping story from start to finish.

"The Monmouth Summer", by Tim Vicary

“The Monmouth Summer” is a gripping historical fiction set in England during the Monmouth Rebellion (The West Country rebellion) of 1685. It is also a novel of love and courage.

The first few pages we are introduced to the Carter family, especially 18 year old Ann and her father Adam and as we read on we follow their lives as it is turned upside down after James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, landed in Lyme Regis to lead a Protestant rebellion against his Catholic uncle, James 11. This story, like most English history, begins with a love affair and ends on the chopping block, in this case the gallows for some and exile for others.

In short words:

This is the story of a band of rebels that faces off English dragoons to unseat the papist king and return the country to puritanism.

Told from the point of views of Ann and Adam, the story is nicely written and is quite captivating in the long run. I found the opening chapters to be extremely slow and I was wondering if this book was some kind of Harlequin. I was so wrong thinking this, when the men were called into battle and all hell broke loose, I simply had to keep up with all the gripping action. Pages afters pages of combat depiction, what lead to it and the aftermath was really interesting. War of religions….and the fascination that drives followers is at the forefront…

Of course the story is layered with some romance and intrigue with Ann now betrothed to her childhood friend, a ridiculously religious conservative while at the same time is smitten by Robert, a handsome lord who supports the Catholic Church. Two opposites and two men who want more from her than she may be willing to offer but must……torn Ann had to make what she thought was the right decision but at what cost ….

Thousands of people were murdered or displaced…..seems things never changes…. This is not a story for everyone……

Sunday, December 4, 2016

"The Chibok Girls", by Helon Habila

The Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria

On 15 April 2014, 267 girls from the Chibok Secondary School in Northern Nigeria were kidnapped by Boko Haram, Mr. Habila shares with us the personal stories of some of the girls who managed to free themselves. “The Chibok Girls” is poignant portraits of everyday Nigerians whose lives have been transformed by extremist forces.

In his chronicle, Nigerian born poet and novelist Helon Habila has written with sensibility an eloquent account and has illuminated us with the long history of colonialism and cultural and religious differences that eventually lead to conflicts that is ravaging the country. 128 pages of the most devastating experience to both Christians and Muslims: Boko Haram.

It took Mr. Habila months of research, travelling in the northeast part of the country, interviewing many people, observing conditions in camps and talking to displace persons adding his experiences as a born Nigerian and interpreting the material in order to somehow be able to articulate to his satisfaction the fears and concerns of the victims of this insurgency and trying to personify the victims beyond mere statistic and transmit his thoughts to us in a simple and comprehensive manner. He did a fabulous job with this heartbreaking story. Even with its small size “The Chibok Girls” contains a wealth of information.

I received an advance copy from Columbia Global Reports via “NetGalley” for an honest and unbiased review.

"Sins of Treachery", by J.F. Penn

Book #3 in The Sin series

This short tale part of the contest was the last puzzle to solve. Although I knew I was too late to participate in the contest I still wanted to read this spooky story.

In a nutshell: Twins brothers are left a mysterious map that would lead them to a secret that will unlock wealth and power.

I had a sense of déjà vu reading this story. I knew what would happen before the events occurred. I can’t remember where I read something similar, maybe it was more developed in the Arkane series or I simply read it someplace else. Having said this, I nevertheless enjoyed the 30 or so pages this short story offered. It is written with the expertise Ms. Penn is well-known for and has provided us a supernatural topic and has delivered it in her usual captivating ways.

All three books have separate stories and can be read on their own, no need to follow them in sequence.

Friday, December 2, 2016

"Sins of Violence", by J.F. Penn

Book #2, in the Sin series

This 30 pages short story sends us deep in the post-apocalyptic world in the city of Dis where the Minotaur lives and where rituals are performed. This was part 2 in a contest that ran on Kobo some time back. Key to cracking the code laid beyond the book….although I discovered this author too late to play the game I couldn’t resist giving this tiny series a go.

Not really my type of story but it is so well-written that after a few pages I was drawn into it, yes even with its spookiness and weird happenings. Ms. Penn is at her best writing stories with supernatural topics, religious events, ancient myths, psychology twists to them.

This is the perfect book to tackle when time isn’t on your side….at the time of this post it was still available free at Kobo.

Stay tuned for my thoughts on book #3 “Sins of Treachery”

Sunday, November 27, 2016

"Sins of Temptation", by J.F. Penn

Book #1, in the Sin Series

Short and sweet, 12 pages or so is an introduction to symbolism, myth and the wild creatures Dante encounters in the wood at the start of his Descent. This series was first launched in 2013 as first steps in a contest. Although the contest may now be closed this snippet of a book can still be obtained free at Kobo.

As a contest this may be great but a so small a story leaves too much unsaid and too many questions unanswered to satisfy most readers. It does however give us a sample of the eloquence Ms. Penn offers us in her stories.

A mutilated corpse is found, a police officer investigate and finds a curious diary amongst the occult objects……spooky…..yep

Now I am curious to see what step two “Sins of Violence” has to offer…..stay tuned

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"A Spool of Blue Thread", by Anne Tyler

Tyler's story encompasses three generations of the Whitshank family, wandering back and forth over 7 decades of the 20th century. “A Spool of Blue Thread”, is Anne Tyler’s 20th novel. It also happens to be the first novel of hers I’ve ever read. I wanted to use my unfamiliarity with Tyler as an asset.

This intimate portrait of middle-class life stumbles heavily on clichés. Some would say the author writes with witty economy of words I would say she is long winded. “A Spool of Blue Thread” walks a thin line between moving and the banal. The style has a warm and lucid prose but verges on the sentimental or cloying. We have traumatic episodes from the past detonated at intervals but the impact is muffled by a very calm narrative. The family life is told by its members in multiple versions of reality past and present. This novel is definitely character driven and very homey. We have a plot zooming on parents, their relationship with their children and grand-children, their house neighborhood and friends. Although a lot consists of logistics undoubtedly true, it is not especially thrilling to read about.

I found this novel very wobbly. I had a hard time staying focussed all through its 350 pages or so. Some also say tads of humour lay between the lines, I never saw this at all. Definitely I lack any sense of humour. Maybe I am on the left field with my views since most people love Ms. Tyler books immensely. Again I am part of an exceptional group of none fans…..

By now you may sense I wasn’t too thrilled with this book and you would be right. Of course this is my opinion only and is to be taken with a grain of salt. In no way do I want to offend any friends or readers in not sharing positive thoughts on this book. Reading a story may resonate for someone in a personal or emotional way. This story definitely will do this.

“A Spool of Blue Thread” has not provided the kind of story I enjoyed. (my lost)

Saturday, November 19, 2016

"The Wright Brothers", by David McCullough

This is a concise and minutely researched biography of the Wright Brothers’ accomplishments. Although the account is well-known, Mr. McCullough has revitalized it with a wealth of details, large chunks of material and newspapers embellishments. With an artist’s touch the author has recreated the lives of the Wright brothers, their father, their sister Katharine and has told the extraordinary story of the two brothers who changed the world. This gripping account of Wilbur and Orville quest to fly is written with panache and is also an easy to read splendid non-technical introduction to the Wright family.

It was clear that a great many people thought they were crackpots, and everybody love to make fun of them. Criticism pour like water on a duck and nothing could discourage them. Success to them was creating a flying machine and knowing how to fly it. This couple of bicycle mechanics and dreamers made this happen. Mr. McCullough’s book is about the unique role of Paris in shaping the destinies of creative Americans. The best part of this book involves the brothers extended stay at Kitty Hawk, a site selected for their experiments.

This book shines in many aspects: it is filled with ample examples of the affectionate, encouraging, sometime scolding words that the siblings said or wrote to each other and the importance of family and the devotion shown to each other. It highlights how hard work and intense intellectual curiosity can open doors. Wilbur and Orville lived this way and this book tells us how they did it.

Although I found “The Wright Brothers” to be quite absorbing and very interesting I however felt it to be flat and lack coverage and depth. But in all a good book.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

"The Tea Planter's Wife", by Dinah Jefferies

The story set in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in the 1920’s takes us on a journey at the heart of a tea plantation. This haunting saga captures all the exciting exoticism of a complex-era society long extinct and gives us a feel of what it was like to live during that time.

Of course this is a book about racism, where non-whites were subhuman, where mixed marriages were not encouraged and the colour of your skin mattered and you were judged as lesser for such delineations, a time were dark babies were a shame and discarded like trash by whites. It is mainly about Gwen’s (the main character) tormented situation when her dream marriage is overshadowed by echoes of the past…..

Although the story is very predictable and you can see the plot coming a mile away it is nevertheless captivating enough to keep flipping the pages. It is also easy to get immersed in the life of the characters but remember to turn back the time to the 1920’s and let the prose drawn you into the hubbub, colours, smells, prejudices and tensions of a pre-independent Ceylon. In all, the book is well structured with multiple sub-plots and few twists to derail us and keeps a steady but slow pace to let our emotions sink in. On the down side the author has an inclination to over-describe: clothing, physical features for example and also heavy-handed in the race relations and social tensions. Stereotyped characters and banalities pepper the pages.

Deep down, this is a conventional love story that also explores the tragic consequences of racism .

I received this book for free from “Blogging for Books” for this honest and unbiased review

Friday, November 11, 2016

"Pirate Hunters", by Robert Kurson

Treasure, Obsessions, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship

You need to be obsessed by pirates and be a tough and resilient person with deep pockets, willing to invest a lot time and put family life on the back burner to track down sunken galleons.

In “Pirate Hunters” treasure hunter Tracy Bowden leased water rights off Domingo in the Dominican Republic and has hired John Chatterton and his partner John Mattera to find the “Golden Fleece” a ship commandeered by Joseph Bannister, an English sea captain, who went rogue after many years sailing the water between London and Jamaica. The search is more than about finding a ship it’s about finding a man, Joseph Bannister, a shrewd mad captain who stole the 17th century British cargo vessel and overcame unthinkable odds till the day he was captured and hanged.

Mr. Kurson does a fine job dramatizing what motivated the pirate hunters and how they figured out where the Golden Fleece had careened, laying there with all its promises of riches to discover. The hunt for the impossible dream plainly sends Chatterson and Mattera through thousands of documents and hours of research. Through the narrative backstories are revealed, what drove Chatterson and Mattera to be where they are today, their past careers, their marriages and some interesting anecdotes to entertain us and lighten the mood. It takes a while before the book hit a steady pace but once it does everything flows effortlessly with a richness of information about pirates and their evolution to modern day mercenaries. Adding to the fun is the book’s wealth of maps, photos and illustrations. The author has definitely an eye for details.

With the new international laws to come soon treasure hunting may not be so lucrative in the future. This book offers what could be one of the final acts in such an activity.

This is a fantastic story well delivered

"A Killing in Moscow", by Clive Egleton

This book was first published in 1994 and digitally published as of September 2016 by Endeavour Press. I received a copy via NetGalley for an honest unbiased review.

This top notch spy thriller is fast paced, intricately plotted, action packed, witty, intelligent featuring British agent Peter Ashton in his second outing. The story set in post-cold war Russia, has Peter poking is nose into a puzzling and brutal triple murder in Moscow, one of which is a British subject. As the plot unfolds, Mr. Egleton keeps the pot boiling, the puzzle moving and spins an entertaining story and peppers it with enough action to keep the pages turning. The prose is fluid, the dialogue clear and simple and the players act their role to a tee: emotional father, frightened young woman, a corrupt KGB killer, gauche love interest, etc. The author writes so authoritatively about the inner works of the British Intelligence making hard to believe this is a fiction.

“A Killing in Moscow”, is not only a suspenseful and entertaining espionage thriller it is also a fun and challenging reading experience.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

"Escape to Havana", by Nick Wilkshire

Book #1, in A Foreign Affairs Mystery

A posting to Cuba may be the prefect escape for Charlie Hillier after catching is beloved wife in flagrante delicto during a party at the Swedish ambassador’s residence. Embracing a new challenge, this bureaucrat-turned diplomat-turned amateur sleuth will faced the burden to unravel a mystery in a foreign jurisdiction, with unfamiliar laws, bureaucracies and customs. Following Charlie I had a hoot of a time.

Working for the Canadian Embassy in Havana is far from what he thought. He soon finds out his new life has mysterious and uncomfortable moments, he will need to face questionable people with unsettling connection and before long his only concern will be to survive his posting…..

This fun read is very visual and quite entertaining. The plot plugs along at a snail pace and keeps this Caribbean beat throughout, just the perfect tempo for us to realize that poor Charlie is over his head, facing one challenge after the other: from mysterious packages found in his home, to breathtaking women knocking at his door, having to take care of the spoiled Ambassador’s pooch and coming face to face with no so good people, taking care of incarcerated Canadian and other Embassy duties. Of course Havana is hot, food is great and the women are awesome……maybe too much for this diplomat…..

This novel is well-written: simple and to the point narration with clean dialogue tinted with a bit of humour. The main protagonist is slowly developing into a rounded diplomat…hum wonder if that is good or not  but without any doubt Charlie is a captivating sleuth I enjoyed very much. We find some love interest that may or may not come to fruition in the future but it is good to know the next posting for Charlie is around the corner… to Moscow and Tokyo he goes in another life full of adventure……In a few words “Escape to Havana” is a story that slowly pulls you in, keeps you intrigued and flipping pages till the very end. This book is a real page turner.

My first experience reading this author was a good one and may not be the last. I would like to thank Dundurn.com and NetGalley for this ARC.

"Flash and Bones", by Kathy Reichs

Book # 14, in the Temperance Brennan series

The plot in short and sweet words: Brennan is called to examine a body found in a barrel of asphalt beside the racetrack in Charlotte, North Carolina.

A Reichs novel has always been a quick and light read filled at great length with explanations. In “Flash and Bones” the history of NASCAR is her topic with the impact it has on the American culture. There is some suspense of course when Tempe’s investigation leads into dangerous territory while probing for evidence and with her presence the heat is turned up. In this installment her on-again, off-again romance with a Canadian detective and her tribulations with her former husband still complicate her personal life. As always the protagonist shares center stage with science, Ms. Reichs loves to include her speciality in her novel and does it without including gory details for grisly sensationalism. The plot is an intriguing puzzle that never go unsolved, Tempe risk her career, the wrath of the FBI to get answers.

A 4 years hiatus from this series was a good move in my part. Series tend to get stale after a while as they follow the same old beat….one loses interest….Glad I stepped away to be able to enjoy “Flash and Bones” at its fullest.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

"Jack Daniels and Tea", by Phyllis Smallman

Book # 4.2, the Sherri Travis Mystery

Things get out of control in Dutch’s bar. Sherri will save the day.

Of course this book is disappointing, 11 pages is really too short to give us much of an exciting plot or even time to know the character. It is actually a teaser…..one that could leave us wanting more or simply turn us off….but not me I know how entertaining this series is and after reading many books it did not take me long to become a huge fan of Ms. Smallman no nonsense style.

This teeny weeny story may be short and sweet it is nevertheless written in the usual captivating manner the author is known for. No fuss and straight to the point.

Friday, October 21, 2016

"Zero", by Ty Patterson

Book #8, in the Warriors Series

This series is a must to be read in sequence in order to know how the secret black ops first got together and how they progressed through the times without wondering who is who and what goes where. Although I do not recommend it, “Zero” can also be quite entertaining as a standalone thriller if you wish to skip the previous installments. Book 8, as in all the previous novels starts strong and keeps the heart racing and the reader on edge throughout.

Zeb Carter and his crew with FBI agent Sarah Burke are once again the main players in this fast pace highly explosive story which centers on terrorist holding hostages captive in a hotel and the kidnapping of two high profile boys. Lots of fighting techniques, computer jargon and minutia details shows how the author knows his subjects and enjoys relating his knowledge through his exciting and captivating drama. The novel is well- constructed to be quite visual and believable. Although the plot is complex, it is easy to picture and follow what is going on. It is a heck of a story and a great mystery that keeps its secret till the very end. A bit of love in the future may come next for one member of the team….who knows what Mr. Patterson has in store for his characters. I really like the characterization they are well-developed and far from being static. Surprises over surprises are in the making I am sure….. Till next time….

Another tense and thrilling adventure I enjoyed and glad to add to my library.

Monday, October 17, 2016

"At Bay", by John W Mefford

Book #1, in the Alex Troutt Thriller Series

Being the first in a running series the story centers mainly in getting to know the main player Alexandra Giordano( Alex). We meet her when she is in hospital following a car accident. Alex is dealing with amnesia and doesn’t recall much of her past. As she slowly pieces things together we follow her through her journey.

Alex is a sassy and smart FBI agent and very good at her job it is not surprising her job was the trigger that refreshed her memory, reboots her friendship and old relationships. Being an FBI agent is always with you and as Alex gets involved hunting down a killer even without her complete memory we have a great time following her involvement. There is a bit of humour in this “don’t mess with me agent” as different situations arise such as trying to figure out why a slutty nanny is in her life, why her daughter dress that way, does she really love her husband….etc….The storyline is quite suspenseful, it is hard not to jump to all kinds of conclusions trying to guess what Alex will remember and what will she do when she does….but getting it right may not be easy. This is a well-thought plot that keeps a steady pace and a good cadence, one filled with twists to derail our thoughts but keeps us entertained throughout. I liked Alex she is a great and fun character with a sharp mind and tongue. Strong plot development one that is interesting and entertaining.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

"Sumi Collusion", by Gerald J. Kubicki and Kristopher Kubicki

Book# 8, in The Society of Orion series

Book# 22, in the Colton Banyon Mysteries

This is the final chapter in the Society of Orion series and I am glad Mr. Kubicki is moving on and hopefully will bring Colton in a more down to earth journey. I am not a big fan of blue men from out of space or aliens coming to hearth to wipe out everything in sight or super heroes neutralizing the enemy with toys that do not exist.

Having said this, I must give the Kubicki high marks for their imagination and power to move their plots with never ending action although way too farfetched for my taste but again if you are into sci-fi and love an out of this world experience you may enjoy at its fullest the series and especially its finale.

All 8 novels have the same beat: fast paced with short chapters, simple narration, most of the times clean dialogue and populated with a bunch of original characters: good and bad guys. I will not expand on the plot by book # 7, I was out and had lost interest. Now why did I read all 130 pages of book# 8…. well after reading the series up to now I simply couldn’t stay away from the many surprises the Kubicki always brings to their plots albeit it may not always please this hard to please reader but that doesn’t say other readers couldn’t enjoy this genre. So take my words with a grain of salt.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

"Far Horizons", Kate Hewitt

Book #1, in the Emigrants Trilogy

This is a great historical romance novel that will resonate with anyone who is in a long distance romance situation. The premise is based on true events and enhanced with wonderful and colourful tales inspired by Ms. Hewitt creativity. “Far Horizons” is the story of two people who love each other but are separated by both distance and duty.

The story opens in the Highlands of Scotland, the year is 1819. Allan MacDougal and Harriet Campbell are in love but unfortunately Allan and his family were leaving Scotland for Canada and Harriet was to stay behind till the MacDougal were settled down…..

Slow for a kick start but once Allan left for Canada the pacing was more aggressive and the story more interesting. Following the characters is a bit of a challenge but once you settle into the tempo and place each one as they appear telling their version of events then everything falls into place and we can easily trust forward although this may be very confusing and distracting for some. The emotional story reflects the “Harlequin” style the author’s is so well known for with much emphasis on the courtships and feelings of the characters. Although this is book 1 in a trilogy everything wraps up beautifully and leaves no loose ends. Book 2 is set 10 years later, is a great choice for anyone to pick it up or not.

“Far Horizons” gives us simple style, clear narrative, clean dialogue, interesting characters and a good story for everyone to enjoy.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

"Laundry Man", by Jake Needham

Book #1, in the Jack Shepherd crime novel series

The backdrop in this first installment is the vibrant city of Bangkok where we will follow Jack Shepherd who has given up a high-profile job in a DC law firm to take a post as a teacher at Chulalongkorn University. But life is not tranquil for Jack and takes a turn when an ex-colleague supposedly dead for some time calls in the middle of the night, scared out of his wits and desperately wanting to meet him….the laundry man is off and running and things soon gets interesting…..

I definitely was expecting that with a title like “Laundry Man” it should have been all about “cleaning” money, international finances, shady deals and nefarious sorts. I was not disappointed on this point.

Although, the story lacked suspense for a good part the novel as it centered on laundering money, bad banks and financial misdeeds, it did picked up a brisk pace as Jack bounced from lead to the next, from one red herring to another stumbling around exploring various contacts, some of them colourful characters, lots of them chichi type whose real occupations were unclear, and some of them turning up dead. ¾ into, the story shifted gears and became an exciting thriller with Jack changing from a banker/professor into a soft version of Jackie Chan…….unfortunately things petered out by the finale. Maybe once again the unsatisfying ending may be a ruse to lure us in pursuing with the series in order to see what is in store for the intrepid protagonist next. Definitely without any doubts and it is working my end……next “The Umbrella Man” is already on my TBR list.

The prose is clean, evocative and is infused with a sense of place….maybe a bit too much. The author’s technical details of banking and money laundering is well explained and not overly done to be extremely boring. We have panoply of characters to keep track of, quite a challenge at times to picture who is who and where they fit in, eventually it becomes clear.

Overall, a pretty good story

Saturday, October 1, 2016

"The Assassins", by Gayle Lynds

Book #2, in the Judd Ryder and Eva Blake series

I enjoy a good thriller and since Gayle Lynds is the reigning queen and very popular on the fictional espionage scenes and heard so many good words on this book I simply couldn’t let it pass without reading it. “The Assassins” continues the story of retired military spy Judd Ryder and CIA recruit Eva Blake. I assure you there is no need to read book #1 first in order to get right into the action that brings us from Washington D.C. to Marrakech and to Baghdad.

The synopsis in a few words: six world class assassins in an agreement of convenience rob Baghdad museum and escape with each a piece of a priceless limestone tablet…. But that goes horribly wrong when they begin to turn on each other… only one will be left standing…..An interesting premise…...but did it give the punch I expected…..hummmmmm.


There is a lot going on in this fast paced and generally entertaining thriller filled with relentless action, explosions, gunfire and all the old-school spy vibe you may want. The story is rather suspenseful and holds a good tempo in most places but drags in others. I like the short chapters Ms. Lynds utilizes in her book. A rather good move, this keeps minds open to move on. We have long-winded moments that are rather flat and distracting places where I would have gladly skipped, thankfully they were few. Enjoyable are the sharp dialogue and the banter between assassins which are well-done and entertaining. The characterization is good all players excel in their roles.

Not a bad book but not my favourite thriller of all time.

"Last Light", by Andy McNab

Book # 4, in the Nick Stone Series

The highly descriptive writing style is quite exhausting to read for this reason I took a very long break before picking up “Last Light”. This is why I am so behind with this series.

Of course this book is not for everyone after all life for a Secret Intelligence Operator is far from being easy. In “Last Light”, Nick is given an ultimatum when an assassination attempt goes wrong: Kill the target in Panama by last light Friday or Kelly will be killed. What choice does he have…. Mr. McNab has the ability to vividly detail with great action sequences what his main character experiences. It feels as we are walking every messy step in his shoes. This one is no different as the previous books.

And we’re off. Nonstop warrior Nick is on the move with each of his engagement meticulously detailed. Everything is from scenery to flora to wildlife to every piece of armament. Maybe a little less of this with have benefited the narrative flow. As in the previous installment the details become overwhelming and I lost on many occasion interests with this story. The book meanders a lot making it hard to stay focused and motivated. Although the story is not bad it is not great and is in parts a bit dull and long winded, definitely not the author’s best. Mr. McNab nevertheless is at his best when he depicts his military experiences through his scenarios. About the characterization: Nick is good at his trade and his character is definitely down pat by now: gutsy and vibrant. The secondary players are well-developed: the good ones likable and the villains pretty bad. Is this enough to keep a reader motivated and wanted to stick with Nick?….. not in my books it isn’t.

I needed a bit of pushing to get through with this book and I wonder at this point if I will once again take some time before continuing with the sequel “Liberation Day” but again I had the same feelings with book# 3 “Firewall” who knows…… I may change my mind sometime in the future but for now I am definitely putting this series aside……..

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

"Easy Innocence", by Libby Fischer Hellmann

Book 1, Georgia Davis series

What are your teen-age daughters up to when you are too busy to pay attention and how far will they go for approval from their peers? This tightly-written mystery will have you wonder and very concerned. “Easy Innocence” is above all an intriguing and a classic detective mystery.

Georgia Davis a no-nonsense female private detective has been hired to help clear a mentally ill man who has been accused of killing a teenage girl. Through her investigation Georgia discovers the girl was killed at a high-school hazing and her death may be linked to a local teenage prostitution ring operating on the North-Shore of Chicago.

This story is quite a mystery ride played out by a multi-faceted, intelligent actress who gets herself in tight spots and in trouble while doing her job. The plot is solid with no over the top silly action, mostly realistic and delicately treated to open one’s eyes without being graphic and insensitive. Each chapter smoothly captures the moment and wraps it up before moving to the next chapter. The drama moves at a steady pace and never let go. From the opening page I was hooked.

What would teens do for money? When Georgia gets closer to uncovering the truth it becomes hard to imagine or believe children would resort to prostitution for the mighty buck.

This is a solid story built with depth, has plenty of clever twists and is populated with colourful characters. This is a page-tuner that flows nicely.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

"Dark Matter", by Blake Crouch

What if one day someone from another dimension decided to change place with you and leaves you marooned in a strange and dangerous world. What would you do? Would you be able to defeat the alternative dimension with all your wits or fight to the death to regain your old life back?

A portal into other dimensions of reality, “Dark Matter” is brisk and propulsive sci-fi speculative adventure infused with love. This book doesn’t qualify as beach reading, each time you open the book it will have metamorphosed into something else….Like Jason Dessen, the protagonist or at least one version of him…or is it several number of Jasons?

The story is certainly fun. Drop a protagonist into a mess of advance sciences and technologies with an antagonist mix into a Kaleidoscope altered states and you have a fast-paced, suspenseful, frightening, poignant tale where we need to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy it.

Jason is kidnapped at gun point, strip naked and abandoned in a power plant. Attempting to escape, Jason opens a door that leads him into a series of strange, eerily encounters…. And opens another one, and another one….

Crazy book of course, quantum physics puzzles…included, over the top encounters kind of awesome, pacing furious, characterization not bad and a curious paradox to tease our intellect. In whole a pretty good scary story and one some will find wonderful and others will gladly put aside.

Definitely not a book for everyone.

I received this ARC from Crown Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

"The Good Soldier", by L.T. Ryan

Jack Noble Early Years

This novel is a package of two books “Noble Beginnings” &” A deadly Distance” and both are great escape from reality. The author really knows how to write stories filled with the over the top action played out by men who are pure muscle and high on testosterone.

The two stories are as different as can be but what they have in common both are fast moving with enough twists to make us gulp and both have wonderful main players: Jack and Bear. The two characters make an effective team working for an agency that doesn’t exist….The well-crafted plots are fast-paced and captivating although be ready for the never-ending fighting Jack and Bear get into. Really, there are so much violent scenes at one point it becomes ridiculous but having said this, the action is well- detailed and vividly described to pack a punch. Of course if you don’t take these stories too seriously you will find both to be page-turners and hard to put down. The characterization is a bit shallow but hey they do give us quite a ride into the bowels of espionage with lots of suspense and great amusement.

Of course these types of books may not please everyone but they sure provide a fun light diversion.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

"Long Journey Home", by Lucy Lipiner

A Young Girl’s mémoir of Surviving the Holocaust

This is a detailed historical account that personally and intimately captures the daily life of a young Jewish girl’s struggles to survive with her family as they flee east from Poland to escape extermination. From the perspective of a young girl, Lucy (Lusia) narrates her family’s journey of survival.

This book is inevitably filled with sadness. Lucy (Lusia) was only six when her parent roused her and her sister and fled the invasion by Nazi Germany. The memoir shares emotional details and physical struggles to stay alive. The journey from the foothill of Tatra Mountains to Siberia and Tajikistan was an extraordinary story of resilience, a long journey that brought her and her family 10 years later to America.

This book is written through the eyes of a young child with great care leaving out horrific graphic details and focusing rather on the context. The language is fluent, simple and tender. No drama just a gripping powerful story. Holocaust memoirs are interesting, captivating from start to finish, this one is no exception.

This elegantly written memoir is an excellent addition to my library.

"Summit", by Harry Farthing

“Summit” is a part thriller/part mystery that takes us on a fictional adventure set within historical and mountaineering contexts. Mr. Farthing’s passion for mountaineering and his intimate knowledge of the skills, tools and equipment needed to climb famous peaks of the world provided an engrossing novel centered on reaching Mount Everest summit.

What an incredible novel. Two men, seventy years apart push for the top of Mount Everest driven by force beyond their control. Modern day climber Neil Quinn’s narrative alternates with Josef Becker’s who in in 1938 was recruited by the SS to be the first to summit Everest. We follow them across two continents as their stories intertwine across history. We have everything including conspiracy, danger and over the top adventure à la James Bond also an evil villain determined to get revenge, Neo Nazis and Russian assassins all over. This is a fast-paced suspense that never lets go. From start to finish something lurks around the corner if not human it is the treacherous climb, the lack of oxygen, the fatigue, the injuries etc. Aside from an excellent plot and pacing we have wonderful set of characters: main players, their sidekicks and the occasional pup-up all are vibrant and so real. This is a well-meshed story hard to put down.

If you like a story that combines mountain climbing with a “What if” conspiracy you will enjoy this skillfully written story. Recommended

I received an ARC form Blackstone Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Friday, September 2, 2016

"The Asset: Act11", by Mark Dawson

Book #2, in the Isabella Rose series

What an exhausting read, the action is non-stop from the opening pages and never quits, so be ready to flip pages to stay in pace with this exciting story. Yes, Dawson did it again and with this second act has given us a full novel to enjoy.

“The Asset” picks up where “The Angel” left us to continue Isabella’s adventure in grand style with great imagery and detail. This story is exciting and very hard to put down. Isabella has been kidnapped and taken to Syria by ISIS. While we follow her predicament at the hands of her captors we also follow in alternate chapters the efforts Pope need to overcome in order to get her out. Of course nothing is easy and with lots of bang we are caught up in one of those edges of the seat drama only an expert storyteller can imagine and deliver. From the first page till the last we have enemies lurking around every corner…chilling thoughts and a thrill ride across Syria and Turkey…..Main and secondary characters played out their role to a tee and their performance was an excellent distraction that held my attention to the last act….

The story didn’t leave us as abruptly as “The Angel” did but to pique our interest to pursue with act 111, the melodrama ends in suspense, another cliff-hanger……

I received an ARC from NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer in exchange for an honest review

"Like a River from Its Course", by Kelli Stuart

Based on true stories gathered from years of research and interviews taken from survivors this epic journey told through the eyes of four unforgettable characters takes us to Ukraine at the height of the WW11. The characters are composites of hundreds of men and women that have been interviewed and their combined stories brought a heartbreaking and inspiring novel exposing the ugliness of war and the beauty of hope.

June 22, 1941 Hitler violated the Nonaggression Pact with the Soviet Union by launching Operation Barbarossa. By July, Ukraine became an occupied territory and Kiev under siege.

The story has three parts: The Beginning, The Darkness and Home and is told in the first person narrative of each character. In alternate chapters Ivan, Maria, Luda and Frederick (a German soldier) tells their perspective as they see it. Their stories show us the worst of humanity as well as the very best but most of all their life highlights the resiliency of a people, their courage, their hope, their faith and the power of love for family, friends and strangers.

Although this is fiction, the circumstances and horrors the people faced were very real. The population was scared, starving and dying. A well- known horror happened in September 1941, when 34,000 Jews were massacred at Babi Yar by the German forces and local collaborators. The characters wonderfully depict what they faced and the battle that raged with each one. The well-researched plot line, the intriguing characters and their distinctive voices is what makes “Like a River from its Course “an outstanding read.

I received an ARC from Kregel Publications through the Early Reviewer Program in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

"The Nightingale", by Kristin Hannah

This epic and breathtaking journey transports us to France during World War 11 and is one of the most powerful stories I have read in a long time. This is one of those unforgettable stories that will leave some a little choked up with its extraordinarily vivid and evocative scenes. The narrative will stay with you for many weeks after turning the last page.

It opens in 1995 with an old woman looking backward at her past and taking us through her life in France during the German occupation and in flashback segments we have a heart-pounding tale of two sisters, Isabella and Vianne, who needed to survive the horrors of war and the devastating choices they learn to make. Which sister is reminiscing, we won’t find out till the very end.

This story is based on a real Belgian woman who did what Isabella (the main player) did. Isabella made a difference by joining the Resistance to shepherd downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain and Vianne journey is less dramatic but no less wrenching, risking her life to save many Jewish children from deportation. This character driven novel showcases the actions of women who are willing to risk their lives for children, friends and strangers. Are we heroes or cowards? Are we loyal to the people we love most or do we betray them? These are the questions explored with probing finesse and great heart in “The Nightingale”. There is a lot to this book and is absolutely riveting. Not only it is an emotionally inspiring it is also informative.

This haunting, action-packed and compelling story is a must read book.

Friday, August 19, 2016

"Mata Hari's Last Dance", by Michelle Moran

In this latest tale inspired by Mata Hari, Michelle Moran brings to life the infamous and enigmatic dancer, courtesan and suspected spy. In the narrative we follow Margaretha Zelle MacLeod “M’greet” better known as Mata Hari rise to fame as a dancer and courtesan to the decline of her career and finally her fall from grace as she is accused of espionage.

Michelle Moran is one of my favourite historical fiction writers, this time she brings to the forefront the lives of strong, independent women to WW1 and has giving us a vivid look at how they lived in a stifling era. M’greet had a hard start in life and to escape her fate she created the mystic that became Mata Hari, used her charms to conquer men’s devotion and spent her time dancing and horizontally entertaining them. Although, Ms. Moran’s fast-paced tale is not graphic at all it does leave a vivid impression. M’grett promiscuous, flirtatious and carefree lifestyle captivated not only her audience but a myriad of male admirers from high ranking military officers, politicians and powerful men in influential position in many countries….. In time of war it was a dangerous way of life and in February 1917 spy agent H21 known as Mata Hari was taken into custody, later to be accused and put to death.

This book is not overly taxing and is rather short (less than 300 pages) In fact I think Ms. Moran made a right decision to cut short her narrative. Too many dances, too many conquers to describe would have made this story boring by focusing on the important points and getting the point across we have the base needed to better know who was Mata Hari, her background and who she became. Well-done Ms. Moran

Thank you Simon& Schuster and NetGalley for the ARC “This is the Way I see it” my thoughts are mine and have not been influenced by the offer.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

"End of Watch", by Stephen King

Book 3, in the Bill Hodges Trilogy

We have reached the last chapter in a trilogy focusing on retired detective Bill Hodges. Since “Mr. Mercedes” and “Finders Keepers”, Bill and his sidekick Holly Gibney have run a private investigation agency and in this latest compelling and chilling drama they are back on the trail of Bill’s Evil nemesis Brady Hartfield. Although it makes the experience richer to have read the earlier novels, this 3rd installment works fine as a stand-alone.

No one combines human vulnerability into a chilling suspense the way Mr. King’s does and the results is often unnerving and heart-pounding supernatural suspense hard to put down. In “The End of Watch” his abilities are in full flow and what has started out as a straight detective mystery has turned out into one of those horror dramas he is better known for. The king of horror has turned inanimate objects into something terrifying. A game on the Zappit console becomes a brainwashing programme taking control of the player’s mind….Brady Hartfield, the twisted killer rendered comatose in “Mr. Mercedes” has found a new way to make people kill themselves…..

Bill has been obsessed with the idea that Brady can somehow pull out of his predicament while pretending to still be in a state of deep unconsciousness and this notion haunts Bill and Holly…..which leads to another intriguing and chilling mystery, a recipe for Internet fueled hysteria and a tick-tock race and nail-biting moments to the roaring satisfying conclusion…..

Good finish to a series I enjoyed

Thursday, August 11, 2016

"The Hesitation Cut", by Giles Blunt

In this psychological thriller, a standalone novel , Mr. Blunt has shifted his attention to New York, stepped away from his compelling police procedure and has given us a unique perspective on the world of obsessed stalker.

From serene atmosphere of a monastery to the frantic pace of the Big Apple the plot is built around two brilliantly developed characters: Brother William, a Benedictine monk and Lauren Wolfe, a novelist doing research. As the story gets under way brother William (30 years old) meets Lauren at the abbey’s library and becomes so smitten that he abandons the monastery and moves to Manhattan where Lauren lives…and as we turned the pages this beautifully written novel builds tension with layer after layer, incident after incident, with more misdirection and plot twists in order to satisfy mystery lovers. The book is a challenging one and provides a suspenseful treatment of a difficult thought-provoking subject. We have some scenes of violence and some of sex although we know that a collision between two obsessed lovers is inevitable and rarely ends well, Mr. Blunt brilliant revelation is withhold until the final pages. The novel is superbly-drawn to portray human frailty…

If you are looking for the usual “Whodunit” mystery you will be highly disappointed and missing out on a most interesting and captivating story…..Put John Cardinal out of your mind and enjoy this psychological thriller…..

"The Two Sisters of Borneo", by Ian Hamilton

Book # 6, in the Ava Lee Mystery

In “The Two Sisters of Borneo” the relationship between Ava and her mentor plays a good part and offers us one of the most emotional installment to date.

Uncle, a former Triad boss is dying and Ava is looking after him….when other problems surfaces… After investing into a Bornean furniture company Ava falls victims to a suspected fraud and needs to go all out in her usual manner to follow the money trail that will lead her to Amsterdam and to Kota Kinabalu…and of course we are for a treat following her exploits.

As in the predecessors we find a plot that is complex and fast-paced, the writing style is strong, clever and involving. Ava is still the kick-ass protagonist we came to love since her first appearance. Of course Mr. Hamilton adds strong travel elements and doesn’t not disappoint with rich details and descriptions of Hong Kong delicacies and locales.

As far as I am concerned this is a highly addictive series and I could only blame the author for that. The plots have the perfect balance and are fun to read. The story ends with a twist and opens to door for a new player to take the mentoring role….will see.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

"Gates of Hell", by J.F. Penn

Book 6, in the Arkane series

J. F. Penn takes on a scary journey none of us would like to experience and to a place where few would like to visit…… to the Gates of Hell.

Miss Penn delves into religion of all sects and spins exceptional stories filled with knowledge into a thrilling action packed adventure and seamlessly weave archaeology, geography and culture into her lively and dynamic plot. If you haven’t read the previous books have no fear to pick up at this point, each book stands on its own and blends perfectly within the series. We do have a small wrap up to set the stage and to remind us of happened previously in each installment.

Morgan the main protagonist is joined once again with Jake and as they overcome one obstacle after the other we are for one of those thrilling, scary, mythical ride. The setting is magical and Ms. Penn knows how to phrase her ideas with haunting effects and other interesting components to imprint in our mind pictures in ways only a passionate author can do. There are a lot of paranormal elements wrap up around historical ones and numerology plays a good part here. All this is written in a fluid and dramatic style, vividly describing supernatural elements, myths, and symbology…. For those into mystical dramas this is definitely a treat.

I have a moderate taste regarding spooky adventures but after reading a few books I developed an affinity regarding Ms. Penn’s excellent style and captivating topics…

"Stealing the Future", by Max Hertzberg

An East German Spy Story

Book 1, in East Berlin Trilogy

“Stealing the Future” is an ambitious counterfactual thriller that depicts what would happen if the East German had refused unification with West Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This fiction is definitely an exciting and richly imagine story narrated by Martin Globe, who works for a counter-espionage service and has been tasked to look into the murder of a prominent politician in West Silesia. The story is set over 10 days.

This book is not your standard spy novel and is quite stimulating. The author certainly knows the area and has vividly captured a period where a population was struggling to keep their dreams of freedom alive. The characters are superbly drawn and I could easily visualize how they got caught into a crisis that involves the Stati, the KGB and British Intelligent among other colourful players they encountered.

This gritty and mostly hopeful story may have a slow start but once the stage is set, the characters introduced and the perfect atmosphere created I couldn’t help but to be intrigued and pulled into one of those gripping portrayal of a young country and its people trying to rebuilt their society.

I am looking forward to book 2

"Tokyo Girl", by Brian Harvey

Book 2, in the Frank Ryan Mystery

“Tokyo Girl” is the follow-up to “Beethoven’s Tenth”, featuring reluctant sleuth Frank Ryan.

This is an entertaining and quick read which I received an advance copy for review from “Orca Book Publishers” through the Early Reviewer Program. This book is a paperback of less than 150 pages in a huge font that can be easily read and enjoyed by anyone over the age of 16. “This is the Way I see it”, the offer does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

In a few words:

At the end the first book “Beethoven’s Tenth “, Frank had to flee British Columbia after things got out of hand to only end up the target of the Yaskuza family ……not a good thing if you are a pianist. “Tokyo Girl” tells in short terms what Frank is up against.

This “Rapid Reads” is short, well-written with no fuss and no extra words to bog down the flow. The plot has all the good elements wrapped in a few words with a few twists to keep us on our toes. Being a short story everything is a bare minimum, not much character and plot development but having said this, the story is nevertheless captivating and one I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Monday, August 1, 2016

"Stranger in Town", by Cheryl Bradshaw

Book 4, in the Sloane Monroe mysteries

Although this book is the 4th in a series it can easily be enjoyed as a standalone. So no worry if you start here you will warm up to the lead character from the get-go and you will want to know what makes her tick.

When I first read the synopsis, the fiction premise based on real events picked my curiosity and at first glance the story of abducted children intrigued me so much I needed to see how the author would spin her tale and deliver it to her audience. Being my first experience with the author I didn’t know what to expect and I can now say I enjoyed this well-turned out mystery and I will keep an eye on Ms. Bradshaw from now on.

The premise in a nutshell:

Private eye (Sloane Monroe) with basic grammar skills looks for two kidnapped girls in small town, and gets cozy with the Sheriff’s son.

This is a smooth and gripping storyline that keeps a steady tempo from the opening phrases and gradually pulls one in with its vivid characters and its gut wrenching plot. The first person narrative makes the experience lively and realistic. There are no twists to talk about and one can easily see how the drama will develop and that our protagonist will save the day…..Mrs. Bradshaw made a light story out of a terrible topic so we can digest the touching subject of kidnapping, human trafficking, illegal adoption, selling of children and body parts for profit.

Friday, July 29, 2016

"Believing the Lie", by Elizabeth George

Book #17, in the Inspector Lynley mystery

This is a good size book over 600 pages of a tightly plotted mystery that brings MS George’s unpredictable characters in the middle of a case involving pedophilia, alcoholism, homosexuality, transgender reassignment, surrogacy and above all….everything comes down to money in the end…In this chronicle, Linley will be looking into a wealthy Cumbrian family private deeds and secrets.

What a long and complicated book this is. We find multiple sub-plots that radiate from the main story, the drowning of Ian Cresswell, before converging near the end of the book. It took some time for everything to mesh before I could let my mind enjoy this mystery that revolved around so many social issues. Near the end of the book we have one big twist that expose a wealth of family secrets and lies. “Believing the Lie” has Lynley and Havers at center stage although Deborah St-James plays a good part with all her vulnerabilities. She surely wasn’t at her best this time. Ms. George is particularly skilled in setting her story, Cumbria seems so inviting (so much so I may add it on my bucket list:). Of course we also have panoply of juicy characters to keep track of: among them are squabbling children, an inept reporter, a sexy Argentinean woman and many many more.

There is a lot to grasp here maybe too much for some: this book is an endless litany of melodrama, melancholy and the bad and dysfunctional family dynamic. Some may like this mystery and some may find the experience may be a drag….

Sunday, July 24, 2016

"The Marco Effect", by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Also under the title “Buried”

Book # 5, in the Department Q series

Detective Inspector Carl Morck, the tarnished star in the police department takes his squad of two, Assad and Rose, once more on a roller coaster ride through Copenhagen’s seedy underbelly.

It opens with a chase in Africa where a worker has just enough time to dash off a text on his cell about local corruption before his murder. The deed leads to crooked officials all the way to Copenhagen…..and the first plot to follow. The storyline diverts focus in a second plot where a fifteen year old Marco, member of a gypsy clan ruled by the tyrannical Zola roams the streets picking pockets, begging and doing petty crimes….Mr. Adler doesn’t stop here he added a third plot, a cold case in which a woman was killed in an explosion of a houseboat and these gripping tales intersect, connect and become the paramount interest to keep turning pages.

These tightly crafted and suspenseful plots can be hard to follow if you are newcomers to this series. The drawback is mainly the lack of a recap of the series recurring characters and their backstory although as a standalone “The Marco Effect” is overall quite enjoyable. All the books in the series comments on the Danish society and in this latest the author combines crime scenes with how Scandinavian society views immigrants. This is an engrossing thriller with multiple points of view, dramatic action and wonderful characters. We know who the villains are and whether or not Carl can catch them. The perfect cat and mouse game to thrill us and the perfect scenario to excite and captivate us. Mr. Adler has found his perfect formula and he is sticking to it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

"The Bone Church", by Victoria Dougherty

“The Bone Church” is one of those fascinating combination of historical exploration of real places and a deliciously dark tale of two fictional young people whose lives are impacted by death and by the Nazi’s. The harrowing content weaves beautifully two narratives set during WW11 and during the Cold War.

It is not an easy read and is a little challenging but I did not mind concentrating on the heavy material. It didn’t take long to be swept by a foray of themes that never lets up and be captivated by this world where there is mistrust, paranoia and deceit. I was immediately taken by the main characters. Featuring, Magdelena, of Jewish heritage, and Felix her Christian husband both caught up in very scary situations during the occupation of Czechoslovakia in WW11 and during the 1956 Soviet post-war occupation. Along the way they make dubious alliances…a mysterious Roman Catholic cardinal, a reckless sculptor and a gypsy among other big players is Josef Goebbels…they path is often twisted and muddied as we can expect in this sort of scenario. It is essential to keep focus on the content and between time frames to enjoy, to imagine, to wonder and finally to ponder. Once into it this novel it is practically impossible to put down.

Having said this, although I was highly captivated by “The Bones Church” this novel is definitely not for everyone.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

"The Shadow Queen", by Sandra Gulland

Paris 1660 during the reign of the Sun King

This historical fiction set against the gilded opulence of Versailles is essentially the story of two persons: the main character being Claude des Oeilletes also named Claudette, an impoverished young woman and of Athénaïs, Madame Montespan, member of the high society and mistress to Louis XIV. “Shadow Queen” tells the relationship between these two women who are both close in age.

As part of the theatrical world Claudette lives in the shadows of society till she joins Athénaïs in her opulent world, a world of corruption and black magic……as her personal attendant. Life is full of surprises and Ms. Gulland paints a riveting portrait of the times. Vividly describing the ongoing war between the théatres of Corneille, Molière and Racine and the never ending battles between the théatre and the Church not forgetting to highlight the tumultuous life at the French Court ….

The book transports us to an era with a strong imagination to make the story captivating and a lot of impressive research to add some historical facts to make it believable. The rich details and the colourful characterization should have pulled me in right from the start but it never managed to do so. The pacing was extremely slow and never did take off, the well needed push to hold my full attention to the end never came. I may have struggled keeping my mind on the subject but I still say Ms. Gulland is an expert in her field and is a very talented storyteller.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

"Jet:Ops Files", by Russell Blake

Book # 0.5, in the Jet series

This is the first prequel to the Jet series, that leaves us wondering how many prequels are in the planning….apparently at least two more may be needed to document Maya’s adventures before she became Mossad’s most lethal operative. “Ops Files” is an essential read and a good introduction to the character and is also mine to the author as well as to the series.

Maya Weiss is a ruthless, superhuman female James Bond and of course she is 100% fiction but what a character she makes and what adventures she is facing. From the West Bank to Tel Aviv to Jordan to Singapore to Indonesia, packed with action from page one “Ops Files” is a breakneck adrenaline rush from start to finish. What an escapism, leave your believability barometer behind and enjoy the moment.

What a fun read, I was just in the perfect mood for a fast-paced, super-spy action thriller with breath holding moments and a storyline very hard to put down. Some may think the action is comic like but it definitely knows how to keep us engaged with vivid scenes. Sharp dialogue and tight narration makes this book an easy read. The plot is typical but very well done.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

"The Swans of Fifth Avenue", by Melanie Benjamin

This is a fictionalized account about the literary legend Truman Capote and the glamorous star and socialite, Babe Paley. In the 50’s they were the talk of the town and hot stuff of tabloid. Although Babe was married to CBS titan Bill Paley she soon made the flamboyant Truman her favorite on lunch date and as a weekend guess. “”The Swans of Fifth Avenue” investigates the bonds that flourish between these two disparate pairs.

In alternating chapters, Truman and Babe (Bobolink) offer their versions of their friendship and in a wandering narrative we hear snippets of conversation that captures the era’s juiciest scandals and wildest extravagances. A whole cast of characters brings back to life a bygone world… predominant roles were peppered by alluring socialites: Slim Keith, C.Z. Guest, Gloria Guinness and Pamela Churchill. The most interesting aspect of this trip back in time is the unusual friendship between Bobolink and the openly gay writer. Although I did find reading this fiction to be rather slow and it couldn’t keep my attention captive all the time I nevertheless would say that Ms. Benjamin’s writing is flawless in her descriptions of vintage jewellery, décor, clothes etc. …the repetitiveness becomes fast boring. This is the life of the rich and famous… Truman befriending socialites then betraying them for a hot topic….hum they can keep it.

I had a hard time with this story and had to look up other resources to find out if the characters where fictional or real and how far the author’s imagination went. Although at the end of the novel we have tidbits of information that clarified some aspects.

Not my favourite Melanie Benjamin’s novel.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

"One Day in Budapest", by J.F. Penn

Book 4, in the Arcane series

This chilling and pulse- pounding suspense drama brings us to modern day Budapest in a conspiracy where religion and politics intersect. J.F Penn has absolutely created a captivating and well researched fictional tale and has skillfully painted and handled tension and fanaticism to a tee.

I admit not being too enthused with the series after reading “Stone of Fire”, the first book. How wrong was I to think this? The second book I read I became hooked and realised how outstanding Ms. Penn’s writing style is. She subtly weaves into a rich narrative politics, religions and history and keeps us involved from the opening page in non-stop action.

Although the drama may be a fiction and very entertaining it is also educational. “One Day in Budapest” transports us to Budapest to witness the dark side of the city, its sad past and the growing concern in today’s politic atmosphere.

The story starts with the murder at the Basilica of St-Stephen and the Holy Right relic is stolen….the main players are Dr. Morgan Sierra, psychologist and Arkane agent and Zoltan Fischer, a Hungarian Jewish security advisor. Two excellent roles perfectly played. Blood spilled again on the streets of Budapest.

Excellent novella

"Fragments of Isabella", by Isabella Leitner

A Memoir of Auschwitz

In her memoir Ms. Leitner uses her writing skills to share with us her wartime experiences when she and her family were taken from their Hungarian home and deported to Auschwitz. The book was first published in 1978 and in 2016 “Open Road Media” provides us with updated digital format version of this deeply moving true account.

This book is slim, the sentences simple and the chapters short but the tone has depth and captures the horror of the Holocaust one page , one sentence and one paragraph at a time. In her years of detention she was a careful observer of both the horrors and acts of human kindness. She was able to escape during the five-mile march to Begen-Belsen and eventually freedom and immigration to the US.

Although, this is not my first book on the Holocaust her memoir nevertheless left an emotional experience and as a reader that did not live this horror I still have shivers each time I read the atrocities people do to others. Years later Ms. Leitner still experienced nightmares and was afraid that one day she will come face to face with one of the people who butchered her family.

This book is a beautifully written snippet (fragments) of life (death) during the Nazi regime.

I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. “This is the way I see it”.

Friday, July 1, 2016

"The Turkish Findings", by Gerald J. Kubicki and Kristopher Kubicki

Book 7, in the Society of Orion series

A Colton Banyon Mystery

To read this book you have to set your mind that the premise if so far- fetched and so imaginative that one needs to put reality aside and let our mind travel into a sci-fi adventure that is out of this world. In this latest: the Sumi have begun their immigration to earth and the blue men are faced with some stiff resistance. Meanwhile, the Forever Ours team is resting in Casablanca unknowing that their organisation has been infiltrated by the Sim team, an ultra-secret group. When Banyon discovers this, with his team, he faces a big challenge to eradicate the intruders.

I have been reading the Colton Banyon series for some time now and enjoyed off and on the escapades the mysteries offer. This one takes the prize of being totally wacky and by far the most nonsensical the Kubickis came up with but to be honest it also gives quite a ride with its colourful and vividly described attack scenes. In the past we had a flavour of the past adding a touch of historical value (not much but some) here I missed seeing any (what a bummer). This drama was pure fantasy mostly sci-fi.

Yes of course we have fast-paced action and some suspense in the development although everything is quite predictable. The narrative and dialogue haven’t changed, it was as I expected: simple, to the point and short chapters. Bayon and his gang play a small part this time all action is centered on the attack on the Sumi in Cambodia. Not much is happening in Turkey but to set the next and final stage in “Sumi Collusion” book 8. I am happy to see this series coming to an end. I prefer a more down to earth drama……Some you win and some you loose….

Sunday, June 26, 2016

"Jack in the Green", by Diane Capri

Book # 5, in the Hunt for Jack Reacher series

This complementary book was a free offer when singing up to Ms. Capri’s newsletter and was my introduction to the author as well as with the series. Although “Jack in the Green” may be the 5th novel in the series I stepped comfortable right into the drama and enjoyed this short story (90 pages) quite a bit. It was a good teaser to continued reading Ms. Capri’s imaginative creations.

Indeed we are talking about the famous Jack Reacher, the long-time protagonist of the best-selling author Lee Child but Ms. Capri spins a totally different web, of course it is around the famous character although in the drama he is only mentioned and never appears. The main players are FBI Agents Kim Otto& Carlos Gaspar and in “Jack in the Green” information of the whereabouts of Reacher leads them at a memorial service honoring dead and injured soldiers in Tampa, FLA. And then the action begins…….

Ok I will not go any further, we need to read this. It is a fun concept, lots of intrigue to keep us entertained although slightly predictable action. Let’s not forget a novella needs to say a lot in a few words and a thriller needs to keep us engaged, this book does both plus gives us an interesting plot that keeps going on and good characters to root for.

Good story, “This is the way I see it” my thoughts are mine and have not be influenced by the offer.