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
Absurdistan
Nefertiti
Finding Nouf: A Novel
City of Veils: A Novel
First Daughter
A Place of Hiding
Amagansett
Peter Pan


Toni Osborne's favorite books »
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Sunday, August 20, 2017

"Environmentally Friendly", Elias Zanbaka

I was provided a copy of this book by the author for review. Not knowing the author or the book I had hoped for a decent war against Mother Nature and an exciting cop chase in just a few words.

This short story unfortunately did not deliver. Maybe being only 20 pages was not enough to have development and sustained a storyline that is exciting. I was more of a mish-mash of scenes happening out of the blue. Reaching the end didn’t come fast enough for me. Too many times I had to reread twice some lines to understand the passage in order to grasp what was going on. Some words were cut mid-way or were missing. This book needed editing badly. Maybe if the author would have taken time to stretch his story the result could have been quite different.

I am not a fan of short story this one is the proof why….

Thursday, August 17, 2017

"The Devil's Crucible", by Ian McKenzie-Vincent

This is a highly imaginative global adventure about climate changes. Whether you believe what is told or not one thing for sure Mr. Mckenzie-Vincent’s views will have you ponder….can all this dome and gloom really happen one day ….

True facts in this story are events that happened in the past but again are all of them the results of climate change or simply normal occurrences. Indeed deforestation is a big factor and mismanagement of our resources an even bigger one. To bring his points across and to shake us into taking action, the author has given us a horror story of tsunami, earthquakes, forest fires, air and water pollution, hurricanes, corporation greed and world corruption, any disregard of our ecosystems etc. all events that has or could happened and by extrapolating the effects he brought the what is and what if to life. Although I think he is preaching to us I nevertheless agree this is a very scary vision.

We may not love what is said and find it to be over the top but as extremists do this is a story that pictures a dim future with its many graphic scenes telling us to wake up and take responsibility. Yes, this should make us open our eyes wide and realise that dumping raw sewer in our water is not helpful, killing or capturing endangered species for pleasure and destroying the ecosystem for gain is totally inacceptable. Although the subject may be dark it is nevertheless told in a captivating manner with lot of suspense and action. It progresses smoothly and keeps the pace going till the conclusion. The players are the run of the mill but don’t hold that against them they act their part beautifully. The narration is simple and clear after all a strong message is being told. Over- all a good story.

This novel is no longer available at well-known online book stores in North America , too bad I think this book is well worth passing time with….

Monday, August 14, 2017

"The Life She Was Given", by Ellen Marie Wiseman

Set in the 20th century, this very emotional tale weaves together the stories of two women. Alternately we follow Lilly Blackwood, a young albino girl who has been kept in a secret attic room most of her life till one day her mom sold her to a traveling circus freak show. Once there we are in the circus world, with all the good and bad. We jump two decades later, with Julia Blackwood returning to the family farm where she will soon discover the attic’s dark secrets ….

The story is very touching as we slowly discover the disturbing and frightening things done to Lilly and the kind of life she had hidden away in an attic for years and how she must have felt to be sold by someone she loved to an unscrupulous man running a circus. Undeniably Ms. Wiseman did extensive research to recreate the circus life, its slang, performers and their superstitions, animals training and shows, their behaviours including noises and most of all, how the freak shows was run and how important and lucrative this sideshow was, not forgetting the presence of fraudulent medium star performer who was the highlight in many ways. In graphic scenes, the story also explores how the circus animals were treated or mistreated.

The story overlaps with Julia taking over her family’s horse business and slowly the secret that binds the two lies at the heart of the tragedy…..Moving between Lilly’s and Julia stories the authors has portrayed two extraordinary and very different women with exceptional life filled with family secrets, tragedy, hope and joy. Their stories displayed a mix of emotions that can possibly drain some readers. Both characters are compelling as well as the myriad of vivid secondary players even the evil ones. All roles were played perfectly.

This engrossing tale is written in short chapters using contemporary language and keeps a steady pace throughout. “The Life She Was Given” is a page tuner almost impossible to put down.

I received this review copy from the publisher via Netgalleys

Thursday, August 10, 2017

"Manhattan Lockdown", by Paul Batista


This thought-provoking thriller brings us to New York City on a beautiful Sunday afternoon to celebrate Roland Fortune’s birthday, the guest of honor and the mayor of the city. Then suddenly multiple explosions rock the entire building….many are killed or terribly injured….Manhattan is placed on lockdown…

This fast moving plot not only provides entertainment but will also make us think….could a terrorist attack happen again…The plot brings us literally into a battle in the streets of Manhattan as well-known buildings are blown apart by terrorists. The story gets straight into the action in the first pages and moves along at a steady pace with never ending twists and turns all the way through. The descriptions are so vivid it is easy to become part of the horrible scenes of carnage. In this provocative tale there is so much tension and turmoil all through no wonder I was kept on the edge of my seat and hanging on…:) The story’s unpredictability is particularly well-done, no way can we forecast how it will evolve, how it will end and who is really responsible for the bombings. The driven force is the many well-developed and complex characters that populate the pages. We work our way through the story following the Mayor, the Police Commissioner, the NYPD, the president of the United States, a doctor and panoply of smaller players.

This thriller is without any doubt a suspenseful look at a plausible scenario.

I received this ARC from the publisher Oceanview Publishing via Edelweiss for an honest and unbiased review.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

"The Con Man's Daughter", by Candice Curry

A Story of Lies, Desperation, and Finding God

Ms. Curry bravely shares with grace what it was like to grow up with a con man and a convicted criminal.

The author writes with so much heart about her painful childhood and how deep the wounds left by her father had affected her well-being. This is an emotional story of a kid with an unimaginable childhood that kept a brave face and hid her turmoil to herself. She only wanted to be love and accepted. This quick and easy read drew me in from page one, told plainly without bitterness she speaks with respect of her feeling towards her father. Later on in life she seeks redemption and was able to find solace in god and finally peace of heart with a loving husband and children. This is a unique and heartbreaking journey that ends beautifully.

This testimony took courage to write and I admire Ms. Curry for doing so. If God was her path to forgiveness and happiness I am happy it worked….

It is hard to like or dislike memoirs after all they belong to the author. It is the way it is said and Ms. Curry does it with passion.

I received this ARC from the publisher Baker Books via the Early Reviewer Program for an honest and unbiased review

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

"A Harvest of Thorns", by Corban Addison

Do we really know where and under which conditions our clothes are made? Do we even question ourselves….I admit to simply look at labels to see where it is made and that is the limit of my curiosity till now. After reading Mr. Addison latest novel where he takes us on a journey tracking a brand of clothing across the world I may think twice before purchasing my clothes in the future but again rarely do I see clothes made in my country reasonably priced so what choice do I have?….. Based on real-life events, this fiction begins with a fire in a clothing factory in Bangladesh and follows a large American company's reaction. It also addresses the reality of sweat shops, slave labor and the rights of workers in developing countries.

The chapters alternate from the perspective of Cameron Alexander, general counsel for the company (Presto) and those of Josh Griswold, a disgrace journalist as they dig deep into the many issues in front of them. As the story moves on, we have some very emotional chapters told through the eyes of people working in factories. The narrative voices are thorough and intellectual, complete with refine vocabulary. With firsthand knowledge of law and journalistic inside we find a plot that flows smoothly and is well- informed. At its heart “A Harvest of Thorns” is a story of two men fighting for what they believe is right and decent while fighting an inner turmoil that is shaking their lives…

After long hours of research, Mr. Addison has created a thought-provoking story where he goes into fine details about the fire and how the people made their fateful decision to break through windows. ”A Harvest of Thorns” was inspired by the 2012 Tazreen fashions factory fire in Bangladesh where more than a 100 workers died and more than 200 were injured.

Mr. Corban, an attorney and human right activist uses fiction to explore social justice themes. In the past he has touched the international sex trade in “A Walk Across the Sun”, the lawless coast of Somalia in “The Tears of Dark Water” and in “The Garden of Burning Sands” the epidemic of child sexual assault in Zambia.

All his stories are eye opening and very captivating.

Friday, July 28, 2017

"The Blackhouse", by Peter May

Book # 1, in the Lewis Trilogy

This is an intricately plotted story featuring Detective sergeant Finlay (Fin) Macleod of the Edinburgh police force. Fin has been dispatched to his home village of Crobost on the Isle of Lewis to investigate a gruesome murder that resembles another case he worked on in Edinburgh.

The story has a split framework told in alternating chapters. Narrated in a first person in a melancholy tone are chapters where Fin’s childhood memories come to surface by his homecoming then we switch to the thirst person narration in a tougher tone when the present- day police procedural investigating the grisly killing of the village bully kicks-in and we go back and forth. It takes a lot of time to get use to this but it is well worth staying put.

There is so much going on with the tradition murder investigation which takes many twists and turns while Fin’s memories propels him in the past. After I got used to this style the recollections became quite interesting, it would be unfair to give away too many secrets. And as the story unfolds and all the threads are neatly tied by the end… it emerges that Fin and his childhood story are intimately linked with the murder……

With pitch-perfect characterization, this densely plotted story heavy on atmosphere and richly detailed local colour is addictive. Its strong vocabulary and traditional Gaelic names and terms (a glossary is provided) transports us to the island, a place where life is rugged and where people are fascinating. Some may shy away from the annual trip to kill guga sea birds but this hefty dose of Lewis custom is the perfect climax to wrap this unique story. The ending is huge and heart-pounding.

"The Last Patriot", by Brad Thor

Book # 7, in the Scot Harvath series

Although this thriller is part of a series and I prefer reading the books in sequence I had no trouble picking this one at this stage. I was fast taken in by this exiting story and enjoyed Scot Harvath attempts to uncover a revelation that could damage the standing of radical Islam. This book was on the New York bestseller while being banned in Saudi Arabia when it came out (no wonder).

Being my first attempt reading this author was a good experience although having said this, “The Last Patriot” is very formulaic. . I had to set aside that the plot was pure fantasy and not be offended by its topic. Throughout the book we have long anti-Islamic diatribes that may be too much and again we have Homeland Security operatives working under the radar for the president, nothing new there. Many authors have hashed this over and over, it is time to let go.

“The Last Patriot” mixes a certain amount of truth with creative and artistic fiction. The plot is wrapped around the idea that the prophet Mohammed shared a final revelation with some of his closest friends, who then murdered him to keep him quiet and what he said a secret. It all started when the president read the White House diary of Thomas Jefferson sending Harvath on a journey looking for clues to the Jefferson discovery.

This thriller is a buffet of everything we want in a good thriller: suspense, action, well-written, fun, a high-adrenaline escapist and a cinematic page-turner hard to put down. This is pure entertainment.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

"Toward the Sunrise", by Elizabeth Camden

Book #0.5, in Until the Down series

I am not a huge fan of novellas but I will make exception here. It was just enough of a teaser to see the author style and enjoy her introduction to the series and her characters. By omitting the fluff that no one really cares about, the author has managed to propel an excellent storyline within 100 pages or so.

This page- turner for some but maybe not for others brings us to the end of the 19th century in Hudson River Valley and is a good start to the Until Dawn series. Although I wish “Toward the Sunrise” would have been a novel instead. The story offers an intriguing peek in the life of residents of the abandoned Vandermark historic estate. Julia Broeder is the main character she dreams becoming a medical missionary and with the help of Aston Carlyle she will achieve her dream ……and more. The plot is vivid, complex and is well paced. Considering the shortness of this novel the characterisation is quite enjoyable although missing substance. (Unfortunately, there is no time for development in a novella).

This is a sweet historical romance novella I enjoyed quite a bit. Maybe I was just in the right mood for this type of book……

Monday, July 17, 2017

"The Policewoman", by Justin W.M. Roberts

Set in not so far distance Mr. Roberts’ novel paints a world with dramatic, over the top action that will impact our imagination long after we finished the last page. In “The Policewoman” we are in a world controlled by drug cartel and it takes the most dedicated officers to face them and put an end to their operation.

Sarah, the protagonist, is a special operative and a heroine in this most brutal tale. She is working in an antiterrorist task force that doesn’t take any prisoners. She has been reassigned to aid in taking down the most notorious drug groups: the Irish cartel….As we follow Sarah we are sent on a tailspin race …..

This story must have taken a huge amount of research to make this engaging story. Filled with details the author spares no words. He is meticulously thorough with the characters’ dialects and local flavour. Apparent in the narrative is the author’s tactical knowledge and his Special Forces background which pepper the pages and makes the entire story quite believable (maybe a bit too much acronyms and info –dumping). The plot line is excellent with terrifying twists to send shivers up our spine from time to time. This is a fantastic fast pace story with well-developed characters. What makes this thriller even more riveting is how the author keeps Sarah running into danger. We do have romance, death and heartbreaking moments but the action is the driving force that makes this book engaging.

“The Policewoman” is a page-turner that has kept me on the edge from the opening page. Mr. Roberts’ debut novel is definitely a winner.

I received a copy of this book from the author for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"Algonquin Sunset", by Rick Revelle

Book #3, in the Algonquin Quest series

If you are interested in Algonquin history this series brings to life an era rarely written about. Inspired by his own heritage Mr. Revelle provides an accurate description of indigenous life in North America prior to contact with Europeans. The story unfolds in the early 1300’s and is told with an authentic indigenous languages sprinkled throughout. In addition, the Anishinaabe, Mi’kmag, Mohawk cultures, histories and traditions are explored.

Although the book is fiction, according to the author the way the characters live, hunt, harvest, their survival techniques and unique warfare are as accurate as he found during his long hours of research. In “Algonquin Sunset” two native tribes are introduced: the Anishinaabe and the powerful Lakhota. In alternate first person narratives, we follow Anoki, Zhashagi and Waste on their day to day life in a harsh land where they will encounter fierce enemy. The story is full of details of hunting, meal preparation, vision, moving camp and some characters go into long bouts of storytelling making the experience engaging. This novel is not character driven but rather an interesting recreation of Native American life. As I read the book, I had a very realistic feel and a sense of just how Aboriginal people lived, struggled to have enough to eat, keep warm and dry and the need to be alert to the constant threat of enemies.

Although it is always preferable to read series in sequence I did not feel lost to have started here. I melted right into the depiction of Algonquin life. It is so sad that so much knowledge of First Nations culture was lost as a result of residential schools….

I received this ARC for review from Dundurn.com via Netgalleys

"Do Not Say We have Nothing", by Madeleine Thien

“Do Not Say We Have Nothing” is a moving story of musicians who suffered during and after China’s Cultural Revolution. Jiang Li-Ling, the narrator speaks to us from the present day telling us about her father, a brilliant musician, who committed suicide in Hong Kong when she was a little girl.

In Ms. Thien’s novel there is so much going on it is easy to get lost trying to keep track of the people and movements in order to keep everything straight. The numerous details and complexity of the book’s structure gives us an idea what we are up against. Part one: contains eight sequential chapters, Part Zero: seven chapters in reversed order from seven to one, followed by a coda to conclude. A real mishmash…..

At its heart, the novel explores the history of two families while examining the love of musicians in 20th century China, the effect of political changes which had terrible effects on the people. But it doesn’t stay there and to complicate things added into the mix are coded stories from a novel called Book of Records. Time shifts back and forth within chapters weaving back to China’s civil war and up to the present day and shuffling between characters. The story spans some six decades, so don’t blink an eye this novel needs our entire attention, so much is said. To top it all, throughout the novel language is central: English, Mandarin, Chinese and music plays a good part. This is definitely an exhausting read.

No doubt Ms. Thien did extensive research to masterfully layer a story within a story and pen this kind of demanding novel that is full of scenes that linger in our imagination long after the closing page. Ex: the student-led demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989. The author vividly describes those scenes with passion.

Some will love this novel for its riveting and lyrical phrases and other will find the experience confusing, disjointed and very-long. Although I made it to the end I admit to have struggled all through….At this time, I sit on the fence ….looking more towards the ground….

Friday, July 7, 2017

"Bird's Eye View", by Elinor Florence

Relatively little has been written about the role Canadian women played during WW11, the author sheds light with her first novel. “Birds Eye View” tells the story of Rose Jollife, a young woman from Saskatchewan whose town becomes an air training base.

This novel is more than an historical fiction for addicts. Its alluring storyline, rich prose, vivid description and captivating pace have kept me glued to every word till I reached the final chapter. The protagonist is a Canadian woman in uniform. Although, Rose is a fictional character and the town of Touchwood is a creation the events are factual. Rose joins the air force travels overseas and becomes an interpreter of aerial photographs. This is her story seen through Canadian eyes…..

Ms. Florence describes the prairies beautifully some will certainly recognized the landscape and the setting as North Battleford the actual location for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Throughout the war Rose has a bird’s eye view of the Canadian experience – at Dieppe, in the skies over Germany, on the beaches of Normandy and when Canada shared in the Allied victory. Reading her experiences is so captivating I thought I was there with her bending over photographs searching for details that don’t belong…..

To make this story as historically accurate as possible the author has definitely did an enormous amount of research and has succeeded in penning one of those captivating war story that honours a group of forgotten heroes.

This gem of historical fiction is an excellent read one that should please any historical buffs.

I received this ARC for review from Dundurn.com via Netgalleys

Saturday, July 1, 2017

"Goodnight from London", by Jennifer Robson

Ms. Robson historical fiction was inspired by the memoirs of her grandmother Myra Moir, a reporter, who worked on the women’s pages of the News-Herald. The author in her latest will transport us to London in the midst of the Blitzkrieg.

1940, American journalist Ruby Sutton gets her big break and moves to London to report on the Second World War as a staff member for Picture Weekly. But life in besieged Britain will test Ruby in ways unimaginable.

In a heartbeat I was immersed in a women’s fiction with strong romantic elements and fascinating accounts of life in England. The protagonist profession is a true part of the story I enjoyed particularly. It was much more than a simple filler, it was an excellent exploration of journalism as it was during that time: daring interviews nicely depicted. While in London, Ruby forms bonds with many friends and depends on their kindness to keep her going and since “Goodnight from London “is a mix of suspense and romance of course what else can we expect but to have Ruby fall for a captain in the military….. awe….Their romance was sweet and engaging as it slowly moved forward.

Ruby is one of those gutsy heroines that caught my interest from the first page, joining her is the slew of supporting cast that are equally captivating. It surely helps that they are likable characters. The authors’ prose and research shines through and it is easy to be pulled in especially when the ravished city is so expertly described. Closing each chapter are bits and pieces of articles that Ruby writes the words start by ”Dispatched from London by Miss Ruby Sutton” and her article is dated…..

This is a cozy and enjoyable read

I received a complimentary copy from HarperCollins through the Earlier Reviewer Program.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

"The Dubious SIM Team", by Gerald J. Kubicki and Kristopher Kubicki

Book # 26, in the Colton Banyon Mystery series

A more descriptive title to this mystery should be a fantasy/ science fiction venture. It all started million years ago when the world was populated with blue warriors, had intergalactic space ship, laser swords and gravity transport. The Sumi has been defeated and dangerous weapons are on demand. The Sim team has been tasked to find them. But they are not the only one after the deadly things.

This story happens after the “Sumi Collision”. I agree it is better to know the previous saga to understand this latest.

The story is a bit confusing with its collection of players SIM, Mafia warlords, the FBI, the fire department, the Effort…etc. all wanted to possess those laser swords and each will go to any length to be the first to get them. The main reason to read the previous installment is to put everyone into perspective. Of course the team is running out of time, Colton wants to destroy them, others want to keep them and Colton’s team struggles to find them.

The story is interesting with lots of fantasy, some history and is mostly a mystery that fits well in the series. The characterization is original and charming. The style is definitely not great literature but the simple and funny narrative makes the experience a good one. This series is a great escapism to reality…

I received a copy of this book from the author and I am happy to add it to my collection

Monday, June 19, 2017

"Dividing Zero", by Ty Patterson

Book #1, in the Gemini series

This spin off of the Warrior series features Beth and Meghan Petersen the two kick ass twin sisters who will be working for a deep black agency putting their lives on the line in the shadowy world of counter-terrorism. Their first mission in the leading rolls will be very unusual…..Their client is an eight year old girl.

All the books from Mr. Patterson have been action packed, no exception here. Beth and Meghan lead us into maze of twists and turns where nothing is as it seems. Once again I was into an exciting scenario that smoothly pulled me in and I stay hooked till the very last words. The storyline flows fast and furious and sleekly give a thrilling ride from start to finish. Zeb and the team do have minor roles but this time all eyes are on the sisters. This adventure is captivating, although simple is well-written to give the needed punch to keep us glued and flipping pages. As always, we find a thoughtful plot with well-developed characters. Nothing fancy just plain fun.

200 pages or so of entertainment is definitely not a taxing read. This is another book I am happy to have received from the author and glad to add it to my collection.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

"The Trout", by Peter Cunningham

This is a well-crafted crisply written, gripping story of one man search for the crucial secret locked in his memory since childhood and the ability of whole societies to deny the evidence of their eyes.

When writer Alex Smyth receives a letter at his home in rural Bayport Ontario containing only a fishing lure, unsettling childhood memories are triggered. Alex thinks he may have killed another boy when he was seven, he then decides to return to Ireland to seek answers from his father.

Alex is the narrator and recounts events from both a child’s and an adult’s perspective. His voice is gentle almost mesmerizing it is easy to adapt to his tone. As the tale unfolds, the author artfully spins several stories at once: Ex: when Kay, Alex’s wife, alone has doubts about their marriage and has fears of a stalker we are into some interesting interludes.

It takes time to connect with the characters but when several layers of tension are introduced and memories crisscrossed with the present they immediately become accessible. The short chapters and a credible narrative keep the pages turning and the pacing holds up to the tension beautifully when it picks up. Serving simply as a metaphor and to provide a connecting thread in this delicate and powerful tale, the author has intercepted his narrative with brief and cogent paragraphs with the art of fly-fishing and its pursuit of the trout. (Interesting).

I had a hard time getting into this psychological thriller and staying focused during the initial section, it drags too much as it recounts the couple peaceful existence in Canada till mid-way threatened by Alex’s visions everything meshed and I understood where the author was leading. From then on I was hooked.

The last half of the book reveals the monstrous crime that took place in a country populated by good people who are conscious of the truth but prefer to leave it deep beneath the surface till one day they uncover the truth….it burst to light like the beautiful trout....

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss

"Aleutian Grave", by William Doonan

Book #4, in the Henry Grave series

With “Aleutian Grave” began my first experience both with the author and this series. I do preferred reading books in sequence, but at the time I simply judged the synopsis to answer my tastes and voilà without a second thought it was added to my library. Having done so did not remove any enjoyment I slipped nicely into a deferent kind of mystery and a very enjoyable one indeed.

Henry Grave is an elderly private investigator, an engaging and very unique 85 year old who works for the Association of Cruising Vessel Operators. Henry is very charming and eccentric fellow with a passion for food and liquor which he consumes a lot. Because of his advance age people underestimates his capabilities especially when he is loaded to the gills. But beware Henry is a hell of an investigator and will get to the bottom of any mystery.

In this installment the Russian ship falls prey to strange happenings: it started with the murder of Rose DeSilva, a cabaret dance, who was stabled to death and cannibalised. As the story moves on nicely, the ship falls prey to more treats and Henry navigates with skills the Aleutian myths that thrive on all decks of the Arctic cruise ship. “The Windigo” …..

As I was reading, the tone reminded me of “Dragnet “and its characters: slow and deep voice. The plot line is thin but is fun to read, humorous mostly although silly at times, rather entertaining most of the time and definitely worth spending time with if you like a refreshing change from most murder mysteries on the shelves these days.

This is an entertaining read not to take too seriously…..

Sunday, June 4, 2017

"King Peso", by Carmen Amato

Book # 4, in the Emilia Cruz Mysteries

If you like reading Police Procedural novels with a hint of romance and a dose of mystery, you will be well served and especially quite entertained with Detective Emilia Cruz sagas all taking place in beautiful Acapulco. A city with two faces: one for tourist and one to be fought over by drug cartels, hookers and thieves.

In this 4th installment, Emilia’s fellow detectives want her gone and the drug cartel her hide but she can take the heat, she is a smart cookie. There’s a cop killer on the loose and having worked with all of the victims Emilia takes this very personally.

Told from the protagonist deep views in a tough language with a sprinkling of Spanish words and good Mexican food we follow Emilia recently reassigned to an all-female squad. But a Detective is always a detective while performing her new duties at heart she plots out every clue, every connection to find out who was involved in the killing of her colleagues. All through the story we have sharp edged exchanges between Emilia and her partner Silvio, that grudging respect seem to never end, so is her steamy but rocky relationship with Kurt Rucker.

Although, the story is definitely focused on interpersonal relationships more than forensics “King Peso”, is nevertheless a captivating and a gripping mystery, quite a page turner and very hard to put down. Emilia is a well-rounded, fast thinking and very enjoyable character. The good guys and the bad guys are vividly painted and each fulfills beautifully their act. The characterization is strong and interesting. The style is easy to follow: clear and concise narration. The plot is not taxing one that keeps a steady pace with some twists and of course ends by luring us to the next saga “Pacific Reaper”.

Not being a challenging read, I really enjoyed “King Peso”, it was a nice break.

"The Underground Railroad", by Colson Whitehead

This is a moving and wildly inventive tale that shines a light on a very dark period of American history and tells how networks of black and white helped slaves escape to freedom decades before the Civil War.

The story chronicles the life of a teenage slave named Cora as she flees the Georgia plantation risking everything. Traveling Cora tried to elude bounty hunters, informers and lynch mobs with the help of a few railroad workers who were willing to risk their lives.

The novel jumps around in time and space and is quite fractured with interludes portraying other characters such as her friend Caesar and Ridgeway, the bounty hunter. The narrative is plain yet smoothly conveys the horrors of slavery: fear, humiliation, brutality and the loss of dignity. The author never flinches in portraying the worst of the slaves’ experiences even salting words with a racist undertone (nigger). The characters use the language of the period: examples: pickaninny and buck. I must admit it took some time to get used to this.

“The Underground Railroad” is an uneven book with great passages and some no so believable (railroad and tunnel scenes). It is great when it tells the story yet loses spunk when the imagination seems to be in over-drive. Although we have compelling snapshots of the life during that time, it missed the mark emotionally with a characterization that is simply underdeveloped…they seemed such a bunch of blah players…. This is a good book but I admit to have read far better and more captivating novels on slavery in America.

Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Synopsis from the Pulitzer Prices site:

“For a smart melding of realism and allegory that combines the violence of slavery and the drama of escape in a myth that speaks to contemporary America.”

Friday, May 26, 2017

"The Zookeeper's Wife", by Diane Ackerman

This non-fiction recounts how Antonina Zabinska and husband Jan Zabinski, directors of the Warsaw Zoo and active with the Polish underground resistance during WW11 managed to shelter over 300 Jews escaping from the doomed Warsaw ghetto and hide them at their villa and the zoo’s structures. Remarkably, only 2 of the “guests” were captured by the Nazis and murdered, the others survived. The book is based upon the writings of Antonina Zabinski –the true life zookeeper’s wife, survivor interviews and research.

Set within the gilded cage of the zoo with the horrors of the Holocaust playing out in the background the author who is a poet and naturalist tells a tale of animal camouflage techniques with human survival. The story plays out from the perspective of the Zabinskis and sometime the image is a bit strained. Although the narrative portrays compassion and courage it shies away showing the pain and suffering and adds little to the heroism of the people involved. Being a poet the author’s prose is flowery and filled with metaphors. We have superfluous details described at length: animals, bugs, piano playing etc., and yet barely tell how the people managed to survive. The story bounces around a lot the narrative mainly focusing on animals and unfortunately lost in the shuffle are our two heroes. The characterization is rather flat and could have been more developed and more sensitive yet again they were plunged into trying circumstances.

I join those saying this is a great story but the problem is the way it was transmitted: overly poetic and too centered on the animal world…..

"Fifty Shades Darker", by E.L. James

Book #2, in the Fifty Shades series

This series is definitely proof that a book doesn't have to be well written to be a best seller. I am not one to read erotic romance as a steady diet so I took a 5 years hiatus between installments before I succumbed to my friends rave about this series….curiosity got the better of me and I gave in….Well I am glad I waited this long between installments.

After all, this second book is a rehash of the first book, a kind of a soft-core bondage porn story that features two main characters: Anastasia a very young and adorable woman and Christian, a handsome and incredibly rich powerful man. Same as in the first book, “Fifty Shades of Darker” also becomes another sexually graphic romance with all the S&M unimaginable done in the state of the art playroom or anywhere else these two overly sexed people managed to find. The story is told from the point of views of Ana and not with a light touch. Lots of lewd language and opinions under the belts, especially Christian’s…definitely not literature and out of this world characterization.

The story doesn’t have much action actually there is near a total lack of plot. What there is concerns Anastasia’s troubles at work and Christian stalking by a former submissive partner. While the story moves on, some of the scenarios seemed to repeat themselves too frequently: the fights, the misunderstandings, his insecurity, her understanding and the “kinky-fuckery”and .....etc. all very redundant and extremely boring.

If you didn’t read the first book, “Fifty Shades of Darker” is not entirely unreadable as a standalone. I was glad when the first one ended but this second installment ends in a cliff-hanger, just enough tension to pique my interest to tackle book 3 “Fifty Shades Freed”. Who knows, I may not wait 5 years this time:), then again I may never pick it up…..

Saturday, May 20, 2017

"American Demon Hunters:Sacrifice", by J. Thorn

With the collaboration of Zach Bohannon, Lindsay Buroker and J.F. Penn

If you are a fan of horror, dark fantasy, mystery or paranormal suspense and love a plot that is fairly simple to grasp you will be pleased with this novella. It is quite an adventure taking us into a make believe world through 134 pages of chilling horror.

The authors meshed beautifully their part each taking the role of a character and blending their story into an eerie tale of demons, portals and gateways. Sonya (Thorn), Blake(Bohannon), Aiko( Buroker), Sebastian (Penn) board an Amtrak train from Chicago to New Orleans for 19 hours that will change their lives.

The train is the backdrop and where all the spooky action takes place. Demons escapes, body count rises and some will have to pay the ultimate sacrifice. The plot is definitely creative with no shortage of descriptive scenes: blood and guts, humans versus demons….ouf… this was one exhausting quick read.

I admit this is not my favourite kind of book although for a good part of the book I was deep into it till the action started to be too creepy for my taste. I lost a bit of interest yet I still stayed captivated till the end. I would say this is imagination at its best (or worse): so scary, so out of this world and definitely unbelievable ….. Thank goodness “Sacrifice” is a fantasy….

I received a review copy of this book from J.F. Penn

"Blood and Belonging", by Vicki Delany

This is a Rapid Reads novel with the entire characteristic that makes it a fast, easy and enjoyable read.

RCMP sergeant Ray Robertson is on leave from his job in Haiti and is vacationing with his wife in the Turks and Caicos Islands when one morning jogging on the beach he discovers a body on the surf, the dead man he recognizes as a Haitian police recruit. Once a Cop, always a cop. He needs to finds out what happened……

Of course a novel that is barely over 100 pages sees a case that is easily solved or has a fast wrap up but as in the previous books getting there is what makes the mystery captivating. As Ray follows the leads he finds himself into the world of human trafficking: Haitian looking for a better live exploited by shady people. A very timely subject indeed. Of course the mystery unravels and becomes complicated…….

I like this series and appreciate Vicki Delany’s concise with no frills or long sentences style. She has a way to make a captivating plot within the limited pages she has to do it in. The story is simple yet not boring and all along she has stayed true to her character.

When one is limited with time, this book is a great escapism.

I received the ARC through the Early Reviewer Program

Saturday, May 13, 2017

"The Thirst", by Jo Nesbo

Book # 11 in the Harry Hole series

Our unorthodox detective is back, facing another killer, one that will remind him of an old nemesis in his past. In this chilling and emotionally charged mystery Harry is drawn back to the Oslo police force and soon is on the tail of a serial killer working the streets and targeting people using the online dating service, Tinder.

This is a crime fiction at its best: gritty, atmospheric, violent and gripping. “The Thirst” is top notch writing and one of the bloodiest novels written by Mr. Nesbo. I was immediately drawn into a dark police investigation and as the layers slowly revealed themselves I was not only caught up in a cat-and- mouse chase but also in a twisted and breathless journey into the mind of a depraved killer. What a razor-sharp and masterfully plotted “The Thirst” is. Not to forget the vivid and wonderful although rather complex characters that populate the pages, what more can we wish for.

OK, this novel is brutally violent and the story is laced with melancholy but take it from me this is one gripping white-knuckle ride that deploys all the key ingredients of a cracking good thriller: Tension expertly ratcheted upwards, effortlessly shifting objectives and scenery and a tempo that will outpace our ability to guess the outcome. What an ending…..

I received this ARC for review from Penguin Random House Canada via NetGalleys

"The Agent", by Mark Dawson

Book #3, in the Isabella Rose Thrillers series

Michael Pope and Isabella Rose are still caught up in a conspiracy and the exciting drama continues with act #3. As the pair travels across the globe trying to find out what is going on, we as readers are plunged into an amazing and suspenseful plot that has us turning pages at a rapid pace to see if they will eventually make it out of their predicaments in one piece. Again this latest is part of a series that in my views should be read in sequence although some may say “The Agent” also works well as a standalone novel.

Mark Dawson is an excellent story teller and has always offered an action packed and fast paced thriller. He knows how to hold our attention from the opening page and keep us interested till the very end with never ending action. But this time, beware, the story does not connect all the loose threads and ends quite abruptly, leaving us to believe a fourth book is in the making (I really do not mind, I simply can’t get enough of Pope and Isabella).

Pope and Isabella hunt is a race against time, a chase that will bring them from the slums of Mumbai to the wealth of Shanghai and to America. As the story moves on, Pope sees an opening to rescue his family and put an end once and for all at being the main target of hit men sent by the Manage Risk Team.

Again we find a great storyline, captivating to no end, populated with determined characters we can’t help but to root for. Maia, a new evil character, is a wonderful addition that gives a total different spin and one I am eager to see more of. Of course as in the other novels, all is said in a clear, vivid and appropriate language. This is a great installment that clearly deserves high marks from me.

This book follows “The Angel” book #1 and “The Asset” book #2.

I received this review copy from Thomas & Mercer via NetGalleys

Sunday, May 7, 2017

"The Moscow Code", by Nick Wilkshire

Book # 2, in A Foreign Affairs Mystery

My favourite bureaucrat is back. Charlie Hillier (love this character) is eager to start his next posting. Moscow bound he comes….It doesn’t take long before he is working a fresh case….and follows the sparse clues that will bring him too close to dangerous powers that he and his client could have ever imagined ….Soon finding what happened becomes less important than getting out of the country……..

I enjoy reading Mr. Wilkshire storylines: they are a snappy quick and light read, have interesting premises and are well-written with to the point narration and clean dialogue. Most of all, the experience is very visual and cleverly entertaining.

Hillier, you have to love this guy, plays the role of a bureaucrat but is actually a likeable sleuth that is thrust into events beyond his control. Moscow is not Havana, his last gig, and the players are definitely not of the same calibre. They mostly play the game by their rules and Hillier soon finds himself at the wrong end of the stick…….

This story kept me interested from page one and I zipped through it in no time so captivated to see how Hillier would pull out of this predicament to save the day and his damsel in distress…awe… of course there has to be one…:)

I simply loved this story and can’t wait for Hillier's next assignment.

I received this ARC for review from Dundurn.com via Edelweiss

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"Heart of Gold", by Warren Adler

Mr. Adler has written a story that has kept me guessing, wanting more and flipping pages to see what this suspenseful and intriguing drama will lead to. He hasn’t disappointed me, as in the past this latest has provided all the unpredictability I enjoy. This is a genuine page turner with all the essential ingredients to make it a captivating thriller and a best-selling book.

Seems that search for Nazi gold is the topic of choice these days. “Heart of Gold” is the third book I have read lately on the subject of treasures taken from victims during WW11. Here we have Milton Gold a hustling lawyer hired by Karla to find her inheritance of one-hundred millions dollars in gold coins hidden by her father from the Nazi during the war.

When the hunt started, the thrills began and I couldn’t help but to keep holding my breath as Milton and Karla brushed close encounters and attacks from those who wanted to get their hands on the pot…..negotiating with foreign government was another challenge and getting the loot out wasn’t a piece a cake either….but a thrilling ride for the reader.

This is a dramatic and suspenseful action packed journey filled with climatic scenes and populated with a diverse cast of characters.

“Heart of Gold” is a provocative psychological story released at a time when threats and acts of hatred are made around the world, especially towards the Jewish community.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author

Friday, April 28, 2017

"New Boy", by Tracy Chevalier

This is the author’s contribution to the Hogarth Shakespeare series

Ms. Chevalier has given a contemporary spin to William Shakespeare’s “Othello” and has transported the tragedy to a 1970s suburban Washington schoolyard where a disastrous chain of events follows a black student’s arrival at a white elementary school.

Osei Kokote is the new kid in town, son of a Diplomat, he has moved a lot and became quite adept at dealing with being the only black kid in a white environment. To survive his first day he knows he needs an ally and he found one in Dee, the most popular girl in the school. But that alliance doesn’t please everyone. Ian vouches to put an end and crush their friendship…… By the end of the day pupils and teachers will be deeply affected……

The themes of racism, love, jealousy, revenge and repentance are revived in “New Boy” mix in racing hormones and place the drama in a schoolyard and you have a dynamic setting that is bound to be shocking and not end well. The author schoolyard depiction is right on: the clashes between kids, the hierarchies among them, their game, their emotions, etc. and how the adults react to bullying and racism. The book is easy to read, entertaining and a well-presented glimpse of schoolyard manipulation. It is a short novel that unfolds quickly and ends abruptly. Actually I had to reread the ending a few times to see if I hadn’t lost some pages….

“New Boy”, is unique way to live one day in the life of a group of sixth graders.


I received this ARC from Penguin Random House Canada via NetGalley

Sunday, April 23, 2017

"War,Spies, And Bobby Sox", by Libby Fischer Hellmann

Stories About World War Two at Home

This novel contains three fast-reading tales that depicts the tumultuous effect of war on the home front. Chicago is the backdrop and where the action takes place.

Contents:

The Incidental Spy (a novella) was originally published in 2015.
“The Day Miriam Hirsch Disappeared” was published in 2005.
P.O.W. (a novella) will be published for the first time in 2017.

Taken at large from real events, the author has used her wild imagination to give us a glimpse on what may have happened to people caught up during this tumultuous time. The stories are short and sweet, written with passion and very engaging. “The Incidental Spy” is clever story that brush on the Manhattan Project and the spies who wanted its secrets. “POW” is a love story involving a young farm girl and a Nazi prisoner of war. Finally, “The Day Mariam Hirsch Disappeared” recounts the disappearance of a beautiful Jewish actress and a possible espionage ring days before Pearl Harbor.

I loved these stories I was drawn in from the get-go and stayed immersed into their plots till the very end. Even being novellas the stories are complete with suspense and progresses at a good pace, have excellent plot lines and well-rounded characters. A bit of romance didn’t hurt as well making the lives of the people involved all too real.

I received this ARC from the author for an honest and unbiased review

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

"Nazi Gold", by Tom Bower

This book was first published in 1997 and republished as an Ebook by Open Road Media in March 2017. I received an invitation by the publisher to read and review this book via NetGalleys.

Tom Bower, a British journalist, chronicles the 50 years of greed between the Third Reich and the government of Switzerland and the Swiss banking industry. Millions of dollars, gold pilfered from occupied country including gold teeth extracted from the mouth of those murdered were hidden away in Swiss bank accounts. The crimes didn’t end with the end of the war. The Swiss authorities hid the wealth from the rightful owners for the next half a century. Finally when a class action was launched by the Wold Jewish Congress against the Swiss banks a settlement was reached and millions of dollars were released in the late 90’s.”Nazi Gold” tells how it took a huge amount of time and patience to reach a fair conclusion.

Mr. Bower not doubt has put his heart into writing an account in great details. It seemed well-researched with first rate sources to back his statements. I was quite interested for part of the book but after a while the narration became too technical, highly colourful and particularly overwhelming. I found to presentation to be done in a journalistic manner: rather cold and in a sharp tone. Mid way, I thought things were going in circle and I lost interest, the writing was somewhat repetitious so I kept skipping parts to see the outcome in this grizzle chapter of history. Even if I was not totally captivated by this book it nevertheless gave me a better appreciation of the Swiss government involvement with Germany and the perfidies of the Swiss banking system.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

"Black December", by Scott Hunter

Book #1, in the DCI Brendan Moran series

“Black December” is a crime thriller that brings DCI Brendan Moran to investigate a murder at Charnford Abbey where he will discover the abbot and monks to be most uncooperative…..

This mystery is written with a wild imagination and in a very particular narrative style. The slight difference in terminology is a bit of a challenge at first till you get used to it. The pacing is fast and furious while Brendan investigates what took place at the Abbey. As he did so the body count mounts and we are in one of those convoluted mystery….. What started with one crime soon developed into two investigations: one to solve the murders and the other to deal with the apparent theft of an ancient religious artifact. We have plenty of twists and turns to keep the suspense active till we reach the final point. This story is a real melting pot of police procedural crammed into a very complicated drama and acted out by multiple players and one cranky protagonist.

“Black December” leaves me with mixed feelings: at times I was deeply bored and other times totally captivated. What more can I say……

Thursday, April 13, 2017

"A Dubious Artifact", by Gerald J. Kubicki

Book # 6 in the Colton Banyon Mysteries

I preferred reading series in sequence although sometime it is not always possible “A Dubious Artifact” is one that I had missed through the years. I wish to thank Mr. Kubicki for sending me the book and providing as in the past hours of captivating suspense for my enjoyment.

As in all the books the story is a smorgasbord of ideas presented in a fantasy style: a bit of Indiana Jones, a tad of James Bond, a dash of paranormal all mixed together into an exciting saga. Again we have Colton and his team of sidekicks protecting artifact. This latest saga is personal for Colton, the artifact was willed to him by his father: a piece of solid gold, written on it is a formula that could put the world’s currency and financial stability into a spin. Once again the Effort group is in the picture and joining in is a team of Chinese killers, Homeland Security personal and Colton’s old nemesis Dr. Thorne on the hunt to obtain this treasure at any cost.

The tempo is fast-paced with some down moments for us to catch a breather. The plot is good and exciting but mostly entertaining. It is not literature and by far, the style has faults many readers will notice but overall is pretty good. My only beef is the depiction of the female characters they are sex-crazed bimbos with little between the ears. Maybe the presence of the Patel sisters and the jealous Loni is adding a bit of fun…..and humour to an intense story, I guess it does. I would prefer more depth with the female characters…..

After 21 books read in this series, going back in time into the protagonist story with book 6 wasn’t a bad thing after all. I now can say I prefer the earlier books and by far.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

"Killer Femmes 2: Small Bites", by Libby Fischer Hellmann

Also by Christine Kling, Sujata Massey, Zoë Sharp and Julie Smith


This book is a collection of short stories and a snippet into their upcoming book. I am not a big fan of this style of presentation I am usually left unsatisfied.

The short stories are good, some very captivating and other less but in whole worth reading. I hate and never read chapters leading to buying books and always skip them, I did so here. I read a sample of each author style in their short stories this is enough to know whether I wish to continue reading this author or not, no need to tease me and then tell me if I want to know the rest buy my book…..this is simply a turn off in my books…

A compilation of books has values: you get to see a variety of style, read different plot lines that are short and sweet and usually well written above all you are taken you out of your comfort zone by exploring what these authors have to offer.

If you have a short attention span or pressed for time you may consider this to be a good choice.

"Trophies of War", by Christopher Remy

Although this book is a work of fiction it echoes beautifully the time, place and contexts. We go back and forth in time following David Lyon on his quest to find his mother precious Manet, an unknown painting by the famous impressionist lost during the Nazi occupation.

It starts with David reminiscing with his elderly mother about a gift from her father, a painting by Manet. David thinks it may be worth a fortune, only if he could recuperate it. And he goes on a hunt….

In alternating chapters, we go back to WW11 with Hitler and the Nazi pilfering art and precious objects for the Reich or for their personal satisfaction and hiding the treasure in safe places. While all this is going on, we follow David facing his many challenges criss-crossing the former war zone….A good part of the story also covers the aftermath with the hunt between the allied forces (Americans and Russians) for the share of the missing arts. Of course at one point David gets in the way of the Russian mafia…..

Based on trues events, this story is all about history, suspense and lot of good action. David’s adventure is interesting and I was pleasantly surprise to have stayed so captivated through the timeline. The plot is well paced with well-constructed shifting perspectives. The style is simple with short sentences making it easy to read. The characterization is the run of the mill and what one can expect with this kind of story. This didn’t bother me at all. This is a wonderful tale that has inspired me to look further into the subject…

I enjoyed this book immensely.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

"The Survivors", by Angela White

Book 1, in the Life After War series

In “The Survivors” we follow a group of individuals struggling with different trials and tribulations after a nuclear war. Many of its subplots are an adventure journey, with a supernatural affair. This story is magic and reality blended into a post-apocalyptic fantasy….well I think……

When I saw this book I obviously didn’t pay full attention to the summary. I admit to have loved the idea behind the story but in hind sight I should have simply overlooked it knowing from the get-go that I am not strong on apocalyptic novel especially one with a fantasy twist to it ….but unfortunately I didn’t and I downloaded it without second thought.

As I plugged along trying to piece what I was reading and the efforts it took trying to make sense of what was going on soon became an ordeal. To top it all after a few hours with it I couldn’t even remember much of what I had read. The end of the World full of apocalyptic horrors is definitely not for me. It was by far time to give up on it, I had wasted enough time on this confused and incoherent story I couldn’t make much sense of….. I dropped it mid-way the first portion, something I rarely do. I leave this collage of mismatched stories for others to enjoy.

This is one tedious book better left on the shelf.

Friday, March 24, 2017

"Everyone Brave is Forgiven", by Chris Cleave

“Everyone Brave Is Forgiven”, is a historical novel set in London and Malta during the Second World War. The story is inspired by the lives of the author’s grandparents: his grandfather served in Malta and his grandmother drove ambulances during the Blitz.

The novel follows four protagonists from the outbreak of the war to the summer of 1942.

Mary North, is a privileged daughter of an MP, after signing up for the war effort is assigned a teacher job. Through her job she meets, Tom Shaw, the head of the local education authority. A relationship blossoms between the two till Mary meets Alistair……

Alistair Heath, an art restorer and Tom’s best friend has enlisted for active duty and is deployed to Malta to defend the island. The siege of Malta is so sentimentality and skillfully described, it really pulls on our heartstrings…..it is hard not to be riveted all through this segment.

Finally we meet Hilda, Mary’s best friend. When she joins Mary’s on her second assignment as ambulance drivers attending to London’s victims we are in a sweeping epic of unforgettable players and emotionally charged scenes.

In alternate chapter each story is told as it progresses in time.

Of course the theme is, the War, and throughout the novel Mr. Cleave portrays the experience with skill and the catastrophic effects of the blitz. He takes the dull, drab realities of war, the continuous bombardment, the constant hunger, etc. and portraits the lives of the people on the siege vividly. We have scenes involving a bullying sergeant and the cruelties embittered by Maltese mob against a German soldier that are quite moving. On the other hand the characters dialogue lacks fluency and at time is insufferably slow. Their attempt at humour falls flat and seems to be off-key. Maybe the author wanted his characters to speak as they did in 1940 but today all this seems to be somewhat rigid….

“Everyone Brave Is Forgiven”, is terribly overwritten and a little melodramatic. But again these are my thoughts and should not affect readers that are contemplating to give this book a go, after all many have given it high marks. I am just a little sad I didn’t enjoy this book as much as my friends (others) did.

"The Only Child", by Andrew Pyper

I knew before asking for this book that Mr. Pyper had a Gothic taste and could deliver a darkly atmospheric thriller layered with visual scenes. “The Only Child”, is a mesmerizing journey and a brilliantly crafted intrigue into the heart of a monster and the only woman who had a chance of discovering the truth.

This concocted tale fueled by relentless suspense and emotion is definitely a page turner from its first pages. Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dracula all in one book is boldly original and a clever acknowledgment to the Gothic style. I was swept from its first pages and was captivated till the very last unforgettable end. This psychological/horror thriller is populated with a creepy supernatural being and a strong female protagonist. This story is spooky and weird surely not for everyone to enjoy.

The main players:

Dr. Lily Dominick, is a forensic psychiatrist at New York's leading institution.
Client 46874-A, a man with no name, is accused of the most twisted crime and is Lily’s study

The plot:

Lily needs to discover the truth—behind her client, her mother’s death, herself—and must embark on a journey t that will threaten her career, her sanity, and ultimately her life.

Conclusion:

Great story and an excellent read if you are into this.

Review copy received via Edelweiss

Sunday, March 19, 2017

"The Light Between Oceans", by M.L. Stedman


This is at once an elegantly rendered and emotionally manipulative novel. What a tearjerker this turned out to be and I loved it from the get-go. I am not surprised the novel received positive reviews upon publication and a film adaptation was released later on.

Set in Australia’s west coast during the 1920’s this evocative tale unfolds on a fictitious island of Janus Rock, situated at the confluence of two oceans. The books is written in three parts and narrated in the third person through the eyes of the main characters.

When a dinghy washes up on its shore delivering a dead man and a crying baby the lighthouse keeper and his wife who had miscarried several times pondered the question whether alerting the authorities or passing the girl off as their own…..and the plot slowly unspools….The pace quickens and the drama takes a few engrossing twists and turns when the scene shifts to Port Partageuse and the repercussions are known…...

At the heart of this novel is a compelling human story and a complex moral dilemma. It is written with compassion and expressed in beautiful language. The characters are good people placed in impossible situation. The tactile details and their vulnerable hopefulness have left my stomach in knots. The author’s paints with tack the inner turmoil of her main characters and has captured the depth of a mother’s grief and the lengths to which they will go for their children. 

It has been a long time since I felt so completely engaged and torn at the same time. After the emotional anguish the author has put me through I was happy to see Tom vindicated…

This is one harrowing read

Thursday, March 16, 2017

"The Tunnels", by Greg Mitchell

Escapes Under the Berlin Wall and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill

Taken from interviews, declassified files, film footage and Stasi archives the author chronicles how determined the Russians were to stem the tide of refugees crossing over, digging under and even crashing through the Berlin Wall.

Harry Seidel, an East German cyclist is the central figure who helped love ones and dozen to freedom. After people died trying to escape, with the help of many workers he began his first tunnel into enemy territory. Meanwhile “The Girrmann group made fake passports and hid refugees in cars in the hope of crossing check points undetected. Not an easy task when on the other side you had the Stati and their thousands of spies and moles ready to give you up.

While this is going on, a savvy media executive bankrolled in part their activities for a network exclusive…NBC and CBS were in competition to secure the rights to film a tunnel escape for the audience back home. Although, the White House tried to put a lid on it in the interest of politics and avoiding a nuclear war they did not succeed in the long run. On Dec 10, 1962 NBC audience were greeted with a 90 minute documentary film.

“The Tunnels” is a detailed true account and a kaleidoscopic cold war story from the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and the Cuban missile crisis on year later. Mr. Mitchell has quickly won my attention with his tense descriptions and dramatic moments. This book is exciting, fast-paced and suspenseful. Each chapter is fast and furious and filled with spy craft, spies, infiltrators, bold tunnelers and numerous heroes and villains. A pause to remember…..

This is one emotionally engaging book and an excellent read.

I received this book from “Blogging for Books” via NetGalleys for an honest and unbiased review

Saturday, March 11, 2017

"Enemy Action", by Mike Hollow

Book# 3, in The Blitz Detective Series

Book # 3 is as great as the previous installments and is just up my alley: a mix of historical events during WW11 and a dazzling murder mystery. Oh yes, people are squashed into stinking public air-raid shelters and when the all clear is heard, they disperse to go home and work……but in “Enemy Action”, Paul Ramsey…… is found stabbed and is definitely dead. DI John Jago and DC Peter Cradock are the lead investigators and we follow them in their mandate every step of the way.

The plot is very well constructed and captivating from start to finish, definitely a page turner. I love how the author depicts his protagonists: they are very sensitive, have an excellent relationship and complement each other in their views. The rich cocktail of secondary characters are well-drawn: we have a victim so called pacifist and more than one person who have a motive for murder……To top it all; we have some funny doings at the municipal level, kickbacks and blackmail, all of this is exciting to read. Seems things never change……Although a fiction this story is so realistic it feels you are there at the heart of the action. This is simply a fascinating read set against the backdrop of the air raids on East London. Mike Hollows has obviously paid great attention to details to bring both the characters and the environment alive. Excellent read…..I am looking forward to see what Mr. Hollows has in store for Jago and Cradock next…

I received this ARC from the publisher Lion Hudson Plc via NetGalleys for exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

"A Shimmer of Hummingbirds", by Steve Burrows

Book 4, in A Birder Murder Mystery series

This is the 2nd book I have read in the series, I simply couldn’t resist asking for it when it became available from Dundurn via NetGalley and I was most happy to have received an advance copy, thank you.

This birding series is an original police procedural and a delight to read featuring the debonair detective Dominic Jejeune. The drama in each is cleverly thought and excitingly transmitted but I do think it is preferable to read this series in sequence, otherwise you will wonder what is going on with Damian, Dominic’s fugitive brother “A Simmer of Hummingbirds” does touch the subject but does not clear up the mystery. In fact it left me so intrigued to learn more that I must read “A Pitying of Doves” and “A Cast of Falcons”, book 2 &3, the installments I missed.

In this latest, the storyline has two scenarios and the narrative alternates between the two. We have Dominic on a birding holiday in Colombia while doing so he takes a side trip and seeks for clues that would exonerate his brother: Damian was charged with murder. Meanwhile back in the UK the team have their hands full with a murder investigation of a local accountant.

This is an absorbing story from start to finish. Switching from one scenario to the other flows smoothly, definitely, Mr.Burrows is a master storyteller and knows how to keep the tension on and feeding it to us one drop at the time. The real strength is the characterization: the players are realistic, well-drawn and are the driving force in this book. Although part of the Birder mystery I found this installment doesn’t overwhelm us with names and descriptions of hummingbirds.

For mystery buffs who love originality have a go at this series.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

"The Senator`s Youngest Daughter", by Kelley Rose Waller

This is some kind of political work of fiction describing an imaginary place where life is bad and the political climate is even worst. It is also the story about an American family working together against a corrupt president and his savvy propaganda.

This debut novel is written in first person tense and is a little confusing to start with. I needed to piece who all those players were: “Litants. Versives, ASJ’s , dogs and what those acronyms referred to, plus add multiple personages some related and some not and you have a real challenge in your hands, at least for 1/3 of the book. Once I past the shaky start and found my ways into the story the experience wasn’t so bad. There is lots of suspense with our protagonist, Brenda, and her family attempting to rescue first their kidnapped father from terrorists and later their country from the hands of a power crazed dictator. The bing bang parts is what kept my attention, it is quite dramatic, very well-done and far-fetched…to a point of being comical at times.

The political scene is the setting and all the shenanigans that comes with it. The action is fast and captivating enough but is dragged down with intercepting speeches, exerts taken from the Constitution or religious quotes.(too much of this) The characterization is too sugary for my liking or maybe it is the humoristic antics they say and did that I didn’t totally enjoyed (again maybe I lack a sense of humour). Although I did read it to the last page, this story never grabbed my total interest and I had a hard time staying focused and not let my mind wander. Thankfully for the action that brought me back on track…...Even if this book was far from being my favourite it is nevertheless an imaginative futuristic view how our decisions may affect our future…..

I received this book from the author for an honest and unbiased review

Thursday, March 2, 2017

"End of Days", by J.F. Penn

Book # 9, in the Arkane series

Ms. Penn does extensive research before writing her books by visiting places and immersing herself in the culture. In “End of Days” is a twisted original story taken from her experience mixed with some mythology, religion beliefs and amazing layers of history. This book reads beautifully as a stand-alone story.

The author admits to have taken some artistic license with the location and has put forward a fast-paced adventure bringing her protagonists Morgan and Jake from Iraq to the Appalachian Mountains, to Israel to the tombs of Egypt in a race against the Brotherhood of the Serpent to find the seals before the resurrection of an evil from his prison.

For those who may be longing for something apocalyptic and find mythology of snakes fascinating this is a story for you, definitely writing about ancient serpent and experiences of believers is not for everyone. Mithridatism is a real practice exploited here. Definitely Ms. Penn possesses not only knowledge but also a fertile imagination and a great sense for drama. As always the style shines, is richly written and expertly said: the narration and dialogue comes as expected from Ms. Penn: excellent. The multiple characters held their places also.

Having said this, this story wasn’t for me. Sometime didn’t click and I had a hard time staying focused. Maybe too many serpents and weird action, I simply couldn’t enjoy this twisted story…maybe it was too twisted for me.…..

I am a huge fan of Ms. Penn and have enjoyed many of her books, some more than others of course but unfortunately this latest missed the mark for me…..

I received an ARC from the author for a honest and unbiased review

"Casino de France", by Graham Tempest

An Oliver Steele Thriller and the 4th in the Casino series

This is a fast-paced thriller set in Paris where most of the action takes place. The protagonist is a forensic accountant who plays the role of a “fixer” you only have to call on him when you are in a very bad spot and all your troubles will fade away…..so the story goes…. Although “Casino de France” may be the 4th in the series this book works well as a stand-alone, there is enough back story to situate us and able us to move forward without losing parts of the thread.

The author in his plot included recent events that occurred in Paris in the past year and he has added personal twits to make this story exiting by making Oliver pocking his nose into everything, matching wits with a brilliant terrorist to save Paris. Of course our intrepid protagonist stood in the ways of many people including a dictator, a corrupt attorney and many others to help those in need. Along his crusade, we readers are plunged into an exciting saga.

I like this story. It is a fun and fast read with great plot twists that kept me on the edge of my seat from page one. This is a strong and captivating storyline hard to put down. The style is not taxing, no need for dictionary, it is smooth sailing from start to finish. We find an exciting main character that manages to outwit the bad guys and be entertaining while doing so. The other cast members are well-drawn to play perfectly each their roles and are interesting people to follow.

This story is a good read and I wish to thank Mr. Tempest for providing me with a copy of his book for review.

Friday, February 24, 2017

"Risen Gods, by J.F. Penn and J. Thorn

It took time and a couple of books before I became a fan of Ms. Penn, now I easily can say I am one of her faithful readers that simply can get enough of her dark fantasy adventures.

Set against the backdrop of Aotearoa, New Zealand, “Risen Gods” is rich with myth and history of the island. It opens with Ben and Lucy are out sailing when a tidal waves strikes the coast and the two lovebirds are separated in the chaotic aftermath. New Zealand is rocked by earthquakes and aftershocks, volcanoes are erupting, the country is turned upside down, people are dead and those who are not believe the gods are coming…. Chaos everywhere, smoke demons are attacking, octopuses (octopi)are grabbing people, some escape and some fall and are eaten up….and as we follow Ben and Lucy journeys on their separate route we see the evil through their eyes. The duel protagonists battle supernatural and human evils to save those they love from destruction by the gods and find each other again…..

This very captivating story is coloured with Maori beliefs and legends and is well- done and extremely visual. I was such a riveting, macabre and mythical experience that I couldn’t put this book down and read it in no time. The author’s knowledge of history, mythology and archaeology and the country’s culture shine through her words. A great amount of researched went into this book no doubt. I also like the characterization Ben and Lucy are realistic in their approach and the secondary cast, good and bad are excellent players. 

This is an excellent read.

I was given a copy of this book by Ms. Penn for an honest and unbiased review.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

"Casino Caribbean", by Graham Tempest

Book # 1, in The Casino series

I enjoyed this book for its appealing story that kept my attention from start to finish. Action-packed with frequent plot twists sending a freelance sleuth into a timely journey involving the lucrative world of internet gambling.

Oliver Steele the main character is a forensic accountant by profession who was hired by billionaire Carlton Tish to squash the operation of a casino in Antigua. Along with an exciting mystery we fall in a world of international laws concerning casinos, travel to different places from Antigua to the States, to London, Belize and other exotic places. The experience is very visual and the description of the locals and customs made everything seemed quite possible. This is a fast and suspenseful read with multiple characters showing up; some good guys but some tough ones to give our sleuth a hard time. The style is simple but well-done to be a captivating and an alluring adventure. This introduction was a fun read that combined many facets in which we find some humour, a lot of technology, a solid mystery with plenty of action and one populated with unconventional characters.

After this introduction I can say yes I will read more by this author.