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”