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, 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.


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.


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.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

"Trained to Kill", by Antonio Veciana

What a story, one that will join the multiple conspiracy theories on who may have killed Kennedy. Now in his late 80’s, Mr. Veciana reveals in his memoirs how Maurice Bishop, actually David Atlee Phillips, a rising figure in the CIA recruited and trained him to be a professional conspirator. 50 years after Kennedy assassination he decided to tell the world the explosive information he has about the case.

Mr. Veciana was an accountant by profession living in Cuba during Castro’s regime when he was approached to spy for the CIA. So hurt by what was happening to his country, he never regretted fighting Fidel. Inside the book is the story of CIA plots against Castro, Kennedy and Che. Stories hard to believe happened if they weren`t told by someone at the heart of it all.

Although the author admits he doesn’t know who killed John Kennedy, he knows who wanted to: two months before the assassination he was introduced to Lee Harvey Oswald by the CIA. By then he was an agent and had already tried to kill Castro. By the end of his career, he knew too much, became a threat, found himself a target, framed for an offense he did not commit and sent to prison. What a life…..

This is an excellent read and very informative. Vivid descriptions of how an asthmatic banker masterminded terrorist attacks in Havana and all this under the watchful eyes if the CIA. Detailed roles he played and much more. This story kept me glued to the words and interested from page one. It is smoothly writing and very intense….excellent book.

I received this book for free via Eidelwess for an honest and unbiased review.

Friday, February 10, 2017

"Undertow", by R.M. Greenaway

Book #2, in the BC Blues Crime series

One year has passed since the first story ended. In this installment we have Constables Leith and Dion back together working in North Vancouver. It doesn’t take time before they get deeply involved in a pair of hugely intricate murder cases: one tragic cold case and the other the double murder of Cheryl Liu and her baby daughter. Everything soon morphs in one incredible tangle where nothing is sure and no one is really telling the truth. We need to decipher all this as we go along and follow Leith and Dion tackling the 2 investigations.

As in her previous novel “Cold Girl”, Mr. Greenaway penned another multilayered mystery that dilly-dallies a lot and is way longer than necessary. I would say it is one of those books you love or hate for that reason. The author pays great attention to small details slowing every down to a crawl. Leaving aside action which is so scattered you rarely see some I needed to change tack, put my mind to it in order to keep up with this puzzle. As it slowly revealed itself piece by piece the mystery started to grow on me and I didn’t mind pushing on.

This novel is definitely a character driven mystery with many players to keep track of some of which may show up in one or the other investigation or not at all….that was also a challenge. The style is a little different and is quite unique and may have all the attributes to make it fascinating but as in the first book I found it to be a hard book to get into. The style may not have totally appealed to my taste but this does not mean “Undertow” is not a well-written and captivating mystery, it is in many ways. It simply wasn’t meant for me.

Thank you Dundurn and NetGalleys for this ARC

Friday, February 3, 2017

"The Third Rail", by Michael Harvey

Book # 3, in Michael Kelly, PI series

Thrillers are all about fast-paced plots and a hero that faces impossible situations and somehow get himself/herself out just in the nick of time. Definitely Michael Harvey has patted down this formula to a tee and is exploring it to the max. In the previous novels some historical incident were the bases for the plot, “The Third Rail” is no deferent, the story in the 3rd book relates to an accident which happened in 1977 when a four cars on E1 derailed and plunged to the street killing 11 persons. In this mystery Kelly was on board, his father was the conductor….fast forward to today, Kelly is drawn into a deadly cat- and mouse game when one morning while he was waiting for a CTA commuter train a man shoots and kills a woman near him….this is déjà vu all over…..and the start of random killings…and a PI on the chase.

This story is pure adrenaline rush as its peels its mystery one page at a time in a tone that is tough reflecting the protagonist rough side. The author deftly alternates between Kelly’s first-person perspective and third-person accounts of the men Kelly seeks. The many intersecting plot threads in this convoluted tale need our full attention although they do come together by the end, you will miss out if your attention wavers just a bit. This book is an engaging and a pretty good action thriller featuring tough, cynical characters in a bleak setting and is one hard to put down.

"Switchblade", by Michael Connelly

A Harry Bosh Short Story

Book: 18.5 in the Harry Bosch series

Give me a break Mr. Connelly do you really need to put out a 50 pages or so book with half of it an introduction to a future book. What a shameful marketing ploy
Yes the first few pages leave a thrilling little story. It has the usual Connelly touch and excitement but ends fast and is not satisfying in my book. Why did I get it, perusing books at the library I saw this book available from one of my favourite author. I knew I had to get it and did not bother with the synopsis or anything else I simply download it and voilà. ….lesson learnt …..yep I felt for it but at least I didn’t pay a cent….

Monday, January 30, 2017

"Booker:Streets of Mayhem", by John W. Mefford

Book #1, In the Booker series

This story features a private detective with attitude who shows a rebellious streak and is determined to solve cases handled to him. Dallas is where all the action takes place and where Booker will do anything in his power to protect the people living in this city. But even with the best of intention, Booker is dragged from one situation to another and faces seedy situations that seem insurmountable. He is tested to his limits when a white supremacist group claims responsibility for an explosion on a bus killing fifteen people mostly children, fracturing the community and setting panic in the city….and this is just the beginning….

This novel is simply a roller-coaster ride filled with crackling action and suspense. Mr. Mefford slowly introduces his protagonist and letting us know him before plunging us into unexpected twists and turns so captivating it is hard not to stay riveted to the pages. I was hooked from the start and I simply couldn’t help but to zip through wanting to see who was responsible for these terrible acts of terrorism. To better know the players the story is told alternately from the point of view of Booker and the person responsible for the bombings. Although the story flows fast, it is smooth and well-written with all the great elements a thriller needs in order to capture and hold its reader till the very last page: “Booker” has it, no doubts…

Sunday, January 22, 2017

"Waiting for First Light:My Ongoing battle with PTSD", by Roméo Dallaire

A piercing memoir

Most of us are well acquainted with Roméo Dallaire (especially Canadians) and how he devoted his heart and soul to his work. This former Canadian senator, humanitarian and lieutenant-general who was the military commander of the UN during the Rwanda genocide in 1994 reminds us in his account how he will seek to explore what the events have done to him since he came back. The genocide is fully described in an early book “Shake Hands with the Devil” and a subsequent book “They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children” are a must to read.

In “Waiting for First Light”, Mr. Dallaire takes us from the point he was relieved from his command through his released from the Forces on medical ground (PTSD) in 2000 till today as a civilian. He also served from 2005-2015 as a Liberal senator and how he tried desperately to influence the ways Veteran Affairs operates….and impossible task he later confirmed….

Traumatized by witnessing genocide his nights are invaded by despair and nightmare he simply couldn’t sleep. In 1994 no one saw PTSD for what it was. At any moment he was pitched into a living memory back in Rwanda. He struggled day and night with visons. His mental and emotional anguish lead him on a path to alcohol abuse, overeating and many suicide attempts. Although his PTSD left untreated for too long became permanent but with medication and therapy he managed to push forward the many causes he had at heart and helped to comfort the others walking a similar path. He has risen from the depths and returned as an inspiration.

This book is quite an emotional journey: sad, heartbreaking and soul-wrenching. It is terrible to know that the Canadian government and military authorities do not recognize the negative impact PTSD has on its service personal and are slow they are to provide all the help needed. Well maybe there is hope things will change…..

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

"Jet (Jet, #1), by Russell Blake

Book # 1, in the Jet series

This story is Hot Hot, action packed from start to finish mayhem around 50% of the book with a bit of romance thrown into a very captivating drama. What is not to like for a thrill junky as myself. “Jet” provides everything I like in this type of books: expertize in clandestine enterprises, minutia details in action, equipment and scenery, in your face action, a hot assassin and it goes on and on. Of course you need to enjoy a fast-paced story with lots of shooting, stabbing, blowing up people….the bang-bang definitely is at the driver seat….If you love spy/assassin adventure this series if for you. Prepare to start running at the opening page and not stop till the very end…

The scenes play out like an action movie: very visual and exciting. The prose is clear and straightforward” in all an easy read. Although the protagonist is a female the author does not go sexist or ridicule his character, her sex happens to be incidental. She is definitely a woman you don’t want to mess around with: she is lethal if you cross her and very intimidating most of the time. Jet is an ex-Mossad operative, who kicks ass in one of the best action sequences I have read in a long time.

Of course this is a heart-pounding thriller with unique twists only Mr. Blake can deliver. The scenes also combined opulence and glamour and hard hitting black ops tradecraft we will ever see.

This is definitely a humdinger of a thriller

"The Oracle Philon", by Gerald J. Kubicki & Kristopher Kubicki

Reading the Kubickis books you need to put reality aside and not search for technical issues, redundancy or great literature, none would be found in these books. But what we have is an entertaining original story with out of this world action that never cease.

Although “The Oracle Philon” may be part of the Colton Banyon series it casts a new set of characters into the heart of a story that follows the same patterns: plenty of dimwit oversexed females, strong armed good guys as superheroes, bad guys usually terrorists or white supremacists doing bad things and never succeeding and most of all lots of bang-bangs.

Having said this, the base of the story is good: Something is happening to the weather. Catastrophic events are occurring all over the world. The events are manmade…. The MAD team is called to investigate.

The plot is exciting, fast-paced, intriguing and filled with unique twists to keep us entertained and very weird things. Although this book is a completely work of fiction it is peppered with facts and insights into the “Radical Islamic” terrorism issue, a hot topic. Philon was an ancient scholar with a number of inventions credited to him that others improved. In this story we have magnetic Vortices, mention of the Bermuda Triangle, subject of ESP and many more supernatural phenomena to spook us.

Entertaining as usual.

Being a member of the authors’ launch team a copy of this book was provided for an honest and fair review.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

"Mother Nile", by Warren Adler

This is an enticing tale of Egypt’s politics during the reign of King Farouk. With historical facts as background Mr. Adler as created an amazing story not only how the King was involved in criminal activities but how his lust for power and his desire for sex has affected those he picked and choose for his evening prowess.

The story is told through the eyes of Farrah, the King favorite dancer, her son Si who is consumed by the need to find out what happened to his sister he didn’t know he had after his mother told him of her hidden past and a twisted man named Zakki who was Farrah’s pimp. The story is primarily set in Cairo of today and is told overtime from their viewpoints as we follow Si’s on a treacherous journey for the truth.

This rich and dark often disturbing saga is written in powerful prose, intense descriptions of revenge, greed, lust, murder, torture and love are showcased throughout although they are not overly graphic. The central plot moves forward at a steady and satisfying pace with a myriad of conflicts exposing to seedier sides of Cairo. Mr. Adler’s ability with words brings us an unimaginable world filled with smells, sights and sounds. The characters’ actions are fitting and quite understandable making them real and vulnerable. We have a whirlwind of mix emotions that slowly sneak up on us while reading. This story is so skillfully drawn to pull us in from the start and keep us captive till the very end. It becomes hard not to be invested by what is happening, I know I simply couldn’t put this engrossing and engaging novel down. I wouldn’t be surprise to see this novel be made into a movie one day……

I received an advance copy of this book as a gift from the author.

Monday, January 9, 2017

"A Siege of Bitterns", by Steve Burrows

Book #1, in Birder Murder Mystery

“A Siege of Bitterns” is a dazzling birder murder mystery set in the small Norfolk town of Saltmarsh at the heart of Britain’s birding country. Whether you are a birder or not this combination of bird-watching and murder is a fun and engaging light read.

This book is a pretty quick read with little blood and no graphic scenes. We tag along with the main character, Detective Chief Inspector Dominic Jejeune, a Canadian, considered an outsider by his colleague of the UK Police Service as he follows a highly publicized case. But our intrepid Dominic would rather be bird-watching than investigating the grisly murder of a prominent ecological activist. The pace is rather slow with burst of activities through the marshes and forests that leads in circles and off the beaten path. Along the way we do learn interesting tidbits about birds and how ruthlessly competitive the birding community is. The novel also provides quite an education on salt-marshes and their contamination.

The story is original, well-constructed, clever and exciting. The characters are real, quite believable and overall well-rounded. The author has also set beautifully an atmospheric scene including depictions of the ecosystem and its biodiversity. “A Siege of Bitterns” is a smart murder investigation that peels its layers upon layers till it reaches its conclusion. Being the first in a series we know from the outset there is more to come….good start.

My thanks to Dundurn Publishers for sending me a copy of this book

Friday, January 6, 2017

"In Wartime:Stories from Ukraine", by Tim Judah

This is a grim and vivid human portrait of a society drained by years of war and corruption. “In Wartime” is a reminder that war is not only fought in the Middle East. From interviews with civilians, poets, political scientists and a wide range of people who have been caught up in the conflict Mr. Judah, a distinguished journalist, has written a timely account of life in Ukraine since March 2014.

The book opens in a taut and informative first person account as he makes his way across Ukraine, from Lviv in the west, south of Odessa, Bessarabia and Donetsk in the east, and tells the stories of people he meets and delivers a rare glimpse into the reality behind the headlines. This civil war which began in the wake of the Maiden Revolution was secondary to the fact that lives were getting worse in a country that was hardly poor, but it was a country so rife with corruption it was going to the dogs and civilians were suffering. A huge numbers of people have now fled the country, mostly the educated young, leaving in their wake and economic death.

If the author’s aim was to let us know what Ukraine feels like today, he succeeded through personal stories and a historical reality check. The main strength in this book is in its detail work, its pathos and in the violence described. Mr. Judah also explains what happened in the region during WW11 and the important connection to the present day. There is a lot to this book and is a challenge to follow the author criss-crossing the country, although at intervals the author added maps to locate us, I thought it wise to have my Atlas open on Ukraine just the same. What also piqued my interest immensely were numerous photos of people and events that were added that reinforced everything. At the end of the book we have notes of explanation and sources as references.

This book is ambitious in scope, thoughtful, effective, fast-paced and very topical.

Mr. Judah is a war correspondent that covered the Balkans wars for the Economist in the 1990’s. “In Wartime” is drawn from his experience during that conflict.

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

"Point of No Return", by Martha Gellhorn

Originally published in 1948, this novel from renowned WW11 correspondent Martha Gellhorn is as absorbing now as it was when it first came out.

This tightly drawn, both tender and tough story follows a U.S Army infantry battalion in Europe through the last months of WW11, especially one of its soldiers, Jacob Levy. A young man of Jewish heritage who will confront the horrors of the Holocaust and tells how he had to come to terms with what he experienced. The often graphic scenes focus on a few other individuals and through their eyes we see action and its consequences as they describe what is happening. Through daydreaming often the men fantasied about better days, their sweetheart and life after the war. Their dreams although clean were explicit and rather repetitive. I presume there wasn’t much to do during down time for the boys but fantasize and in this story they did lots of it.

One part of this story is the typical war romance with a handsome and naïve protagonist and non-English speaking woman and the other part is a serious Holocaust novel with the horrors of Dachau and the realities of war. The novel includes an afterword where Martha Gellhorn tells us her own experiences as a war correspondent that went to Dachau soon after the Americans discovered its existence. The author wrote this novel with a keen eye for details and an awareness of how war affects everyone caught in its path.

Thank you to Open Road Integrated Media and NetGalleys for the opportunity to read and review this book

Sunday, January 1, 2017

"Marie Antoinette's Darkest Days", by Will Bashor

Prisoner No. 280 in the Conciergerie

This unique account of an intriguing period of history is meticulously researched to give us the most accurate version of the events and is so cleverly crafted it manages to read like a novel. Drawing from records Mr. Basher has captured what Marie-Antoinette may have endured during the two and half month imprisonment prior to her execution.

The book begins on the 2nd of august 1793 the Marie- Antoinette was escorted from the temple to the Conciergerie, known as the “waiting room for the guillotine”. The depiction of this horrible place is felt throughout the Queen’s ordeal: worm infested straw mattress, acrid and musty smell, filthy environment where rats loved to nibble on you (just to name some discomfort). The perilous situation Marie-Antoinette found herself is brilliantly and vividly captured with images, drawing and supportive footnotes. There were failed plans to rescue her with terrible consequences for those who attempted. Even kindness towards her was a death warrant.

The Reign of Terror is a fascinating period in history. Mr. Bashor relates in details the Queen’s daily life of confinement from her elongated stay in the infamous waiting room of the guillotine, to her trial and the fatal tumbril ride through the streets that ended on the scaffold. She was well surrounded with thousands of people some innocent and some not too much facing the public executioner and the “National Razor”.

Thank you to Rowan & Littlefield and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review this book.