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, 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….