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 »

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 clich├ęs. 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.