Toni

The way I see it

"One More Degree", by C.J. West

"One More Degree" - CJ West

I agree with those saying this fantasy has a very original concept, is very inventive and is highly imaginative. But can it appeal to all…

My take in a nut shell:

Four people’ s souls now in their 72nd year in purgatory are waiting for the solstice to come so they can be reborn and start a life again. While they wait for the time to come they shape the lives of people they choose on earth to their liking: these poor lost souls are: Karma, Lady Luck, Destiny and Fate. The story is told through the eyes of Felix Lacroix (we only discover who he is by the end of the book) as he tells us chapters after chapters what games his pals pull on their targets to change the course of their life….

My thoughts:

Most reviews I read gave this story 5 stars, unfortunately it won’t from me. Ok I may be the odd ball here but at least I am being frank. Although I took the time to read all of it and by the end hated having spent so time on a story that I almost forgot before I had even turned the last page. 

Why did this story not gel for me: Too many chapters, one after the other told stories that were disjointed before finally a light came and things seemed to fall into place and the pieces of the puzzle finally matched. Too much time elapsed before I came to figure out that each chapter wasn’t a new story but actually a continuation of the previous spell Karma, Lady Luck, Destiny or Fate had placed on their subjects. Maybe I am not into fantasy….and not believing in the afterlife may also be the reason.

Now that you know I hated this book I must tell you Mr. West has a huge library of stories and I read a good selection of them in the past and have enjoyed most. This book may not have been my cup of tea but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give this one a go…who knows you may love it…..

You really need to change perspective or pass on this one. This is one book you either love or hate…..

"At Any Cost", by John W. Mefford

AT Any Cost - John W. Mefford
Alex Trout Thriller book # 8

Redemption Thriller book # 20

This edition begins where the previous left off and this latest is told mostly from Alex and Ozzie‘s perspective. The plot has a strong beginning; someone is holding a gun to Alex’s head…

Our protagonist once more faces new challenges finding herself in the middle of puzzling cases: someone is hacking ATM and dead bodies are turning up and witnesses are being murdered. If this is not enough to contend with Alex thinks there may be a connection to Ozzie protective custody in these cases….and if so this can be dangerous……

You must read this series in sequence to understand where the players come from and appreciate where the thriller leads us. We do not have much backstory to put us straight. 

“At Any Cost” is a suspenseful and entertaining read. The plot is well written and pulls you in from the start. The author lets us know a bit more about Alex and Ozzie and how they adjusting to life despite the tragedies they faced as both are now ready to most forward….but will Mr. Mefford let them do so…there is no conclusion here so let’s see in the next book if we will have one. 

Reading this book gives a good ride and does not disappoint. What is not to like: extortion, bombings and assassinations and Alex going off the books trying to stop a blood-thirsty group who wants control and pad their pockets…Shots fly, Alex and Ozzie try to escape death but where does this leads….How does everything fit together? … There is a betrayal …..by the end, a gun is pointed at Alex face…will this be her last day of life?....stay tuned… Oh yes, this is one of those books that leave us in a cliff-hanger….

Although I enjoyed this story a lot, it was not my preferred one in the series, at times the narrative seemed rushed and some of the action was not as strong as in the precedent novels. Having said this I still think this is not a book to miss out on.

I enjoy this series and can’t wait to see what Mr. Mefford has in store next.
 
 

 

"Best Kept Secret", by Jeffrey Archer

Best Kept Secret - Jeffrey Archer

The Clifton Chronicle book# 3

The book picks up after the events in “The Sins of the Father” and is a real pot boiler that continues the Clifton gripping family and political sagas which spans the years 1945 to 1958 in this installment.

The momentum of the narrative swings between Giles Barrington, now Member of Parliament and the Cliftons: Harry and Emma. The first have of the story moves forward by the legal ruling as to who is the true heir of the Barrington’s and the second part see Sebastian, son of Harry and Emma embroiled in an international fraud crime. Eventually the two families use their influence to pulled Sebastian out of his mess and by the time we reach the last page we are left in a cliffhanger that we do not see coming. Plot-driven novels are hard to discuss without spoilers, so I will say no more…..

So far, I have enjoyed reading this series. The style is simple and the prose is straightforward with minimal description. Mr. Archer knows how to build tension to move his plot forward and how to leave us breathless by the end. The characters may be a bit the cookie cutter type but I love them the way they are. This is definitely a soap opera at its best….

“Best Kept Secret” tells a story by itself, with enough explanation of how the characters came to be without retelling the previous events but rather focussing one the events that were unfolding. Definitely worth reading it. 

"The Winemaker's Wife", by Kristin Harmel

"The Winemaker's Wife" - Kristin Harmel

This is a complex story of love, betrayal and courage told with exceptional skill. Written in heart wrenching prose “The Winemaker’s Wife” goes back and forth between time and the present: Champagne, 1940 and 2019.

1940

The story gives us a different perspective of Germany occupied France. As it opens Ines has just married Michel, then owner of the champagne house Maison Chauveau when the Germans invade. As the danger mounts Michel joins the resistance. When rumours about Jews being deported… fear sets in… Celine, Michel’s chef de cave’s wife, is half Jewish….. They are afraid of being exposed…

Ines and Celine are the main voices and tell their point of views in alternate chapters as the war moves on. Celine tends to follow her heart and Ines eventually makes a dangerous mistake with a Nazi collaborator….Their side is told with warmth and emotions…

2019

In New York Grandmother Edith shows up at Liv Kent’s home insisting on a trip to France, she has something in mind and wants to share her tragic story with her granddaughter. 

Edith and Liv are the driving voices when the story moves to the present. 

More thoughts:

Actually we have two stories and at first I was wondering where the connection might be. The author keeps giving tidbits of information teasing till the denouement. The suspense is held throughout and very well-done. Although the plot moves very slowly and nothing melodramatic happens well into the novel I was nevertheless deeply engaged from the get-go. This tragic story inspired by real events tells how people make desperate choices in order to survive and is one that offers many twists which I did not see coming. 

War stories are my favourite, even if they are fictional there is always some truth to them. “The Winemaker’s Wife” is set amid the champagne vineyards of northern France and we have a small view of how it may have operated during this hard time…right or wrong I do not care, the description is vivid and the drama lively….

Eventually the past and present merge and we are back to the caves of Maison Chauveau. Well-done.

I received this ARC from the publisher Simon& Schuster via NetGalleys for my thoughts

"The Mountain Master of Sha Tin, by Ian Hamilton

The Mountain Master of Sha Tin (Ava Lee #12) - Ian  Hamilton

Book #12, in the Ava Lee series

Ava is in Shanghai with Pang Fai to visit her ailing friend Xu when a violent triad war breaks out between two feuding gangs vying for control of the Wanchai territory in Hong Kong. Ava steps in to broker a settlement.

This 12th novel does not disappoint. The turf war between the Wings clan who is trying to take back power from Xu, the head of triads, is mixed with cold brutality and provides a fascinating peek into a disturbing world we hear of but hopefully never see. Nothing is subtle with their methods…..

When Xu’s soldiers are kidnapped and the Wings threaten to execute them after sending a box containing six fingers and a twelve hour deadline, Ava is driven to the edge and devises a plan that only death will solve…but who will fall first.

I love Ava Lee she is a female sleuth extraordinaire. In this latest she steps away from recuperating stolen cash and other business ventures to concentrate on being the negotiator between two fearless gangs and help Xu regain full control. The plot is suspenseful and intriguing of course we find lots of violence to make us cringe. Ava is at her best, the challenges she faces are intriguing. The action never ends, move fast and is very captivating, quite a page turner. No worries if you pick up this series here, there is enough backstories to situate the new comers and not too many details to overwhelm the avid fans…..

Once again, Mr. Hamilton has penned a great thriller for our enjoyment and he surely hit the button with this one. . Well-done as usual I love this series. 

Many thanks to the publisher House of Anansi Press and to Edelweiss for this ARC

"At Stake", by John W. Mefford

AT Stake (Redemption Thriller #19) - John W. Mefford

Alex Trout Thriller # 7

Redemption Thriller # 19

I love this series, love Alex and love that she is teaming up with Ozzie in this mystery. (Ozzie is the main character in the Ozzie Novack series). Although part of a series, all of the books can technically be read alone without missing too much but I strongly suggest you read them in sequence.

This is a good mystery with edge of your seat action and suspense. The plot brings back memories of the Boston Marathon terror attack that occurred in 2013. “At Stake” sounds and visuals are right on. It opens with hysteria when in the crowd bombs went off and Alex’s partner is injured now in hospital clinging to life. Alex is Alex and she will not take orders to step down….

Of course she is all action but if you think you can figure out what is going to happen, well you would be back to square one in no time, so I am warning you Mr. Mefford throws lots of kinks in the mix to derail us. The plot is crafted to give us excitement and thrills to keep us turning the pages. I like Alex’s showdown with the most vicious villain, it gives us all the suspense imaginable. Mr. Mefford is a gifted storyteller, his imagination has no limits. This time, taking an actual event then spinning his web of intrigue and making an excellent story for us to be captivated with. He doesn’t fail…..of course to lure us even more the story ends in a cliff-hanger….Stay tuned…next “At Any Cost”

"I'll Never Tell", by Catherine McKenzie

I'll Never Tell - Catherine McKenzie

This psychological suspense novel revolves around an unsolved incident at a summer camp and a disturbing family reunion 20 years later. 

20 years ago:

Amanda Holmes was found bludgeoned in a rowboat at the MacAllister family camp. What really happened to her that day and why was no one ever charged with the crime. 

Present time:

After the death of their parents, the siblings return to the camp for the reading of the will and to settle the estate. But the will stipulate they need to unravel the mystery of what happened to Amanda before they can inherit. 

My thoughts:

“I’ll Never tell” unwraps its mystery drop by drop and lets you wonder till the very last page how deeply buried is the family secret…..It is told with deftness and surety as we are placed in the middle of the family drama. Grown up the siblings fight as they did as kids and while they reminisce their time at the camp years ago we feel part of the scenario. The story goes back and forth from one sibling to another, from secondary character to another, from the present and in flashback to the pass. This may seem a bit confusing at times and may be hard to keep everyone in place, since each brings a different perspective and more secrets. But the excellent narrative, the driving force here that pushes the plot forward and eventually everything meshes nicely and falls into place…as results I never guessed who was behind….what a satisfying ending. 

I have to admit, at first I found this story way too slow and somewhat boring but I fast changed my mind as the story progressed. I was deeply into it mid-way and found it hard to put it down since I wanted to know what really happened to Amanda. Those tidbits of information just kept me going…nicely done.

“I’ll Never Tell” is a gritty mystery that kept me guessing and wondering till the very end. This latest has to be Ms. McKenzie’s best so far. 

I received this ARC from Simon& Schuster Canada via Net Galleys for my thoughts 

"Twelve Days", by Alex Berenson

Twelve Days (A John Wells Novel) - Alex Berenson

Book #9, in the John Wells series

After book # 8, I needed to take a long break from this series in fact it has been over 4 ½ years since I read “The Counterfeit”, why did I wait so long to get to “Twelve Days” ….I really had enough with problems between the US and Iran, this series was getting stale to me….I finally had to put it on my read shelf once and for all so here I am with my thoughts…..

“Twelve Days”, starts where the prequel left us. If you pick up this series here, no worries, there is a lot of information dumps for the new readers to catch up, although I recommend you read the previous installments first. This series is built around John Wells, an American intelligence operative and the main focus is a countdown to battle between the US and Iran. 

It opens with a bag. A shoulder –fired rocket brings down a passenger jet. Iran is suspected to be behind this tragedy. The fictional US president has then decided that Iran has a bomb and has ordered strikes against the country, given 12 days to come clean…but Iran doesn’t really have the bomb…. So what then… our super-human goes through a series of adventures and misadventures to save the day and at times he does entertain us.

Unfortunately, this story tends to meander way too much. A good part is essentially recaps of the previous books. It seems the author was struggling to fill the pages to give us the action we came to expect. Wells is all over the place he jumps from the Middle East, to Russia, to South Africa and to the US while battling his own government which is convinced the evidence against Iran is solid. What a conspiracy theory….12 days countdown till the last hour… can this scenario be possible? No it sounds unrealistic/unbelievable for a government to do this….or could this happen someday….or could a third party as suggested in this plot be behind this kind of conspiracy…..

I had a hard time staying with this book. It took way to long, not until half way through before the author gets going from there finally the story picks up and the plot has some spring into it. Most action scenes are bland some are captivating but nothing original comes out and things drags on and on and on…..finally Wells save the day and the world is a better place for it….haha

"The Jewels of Paradise" by Donna Leon

The Jewels of Paradise - Donna Leon

This is Ms. Leon’s first standalone novel after a long series of mysteries featuring Commissario Brunetti. In “The Jewel of Paradis” Caterina Pellegrini, an opera expert from Manchester comes back to Venice to research the contents of trunks believed to have belonged to a renowned baroque composer, Agostino Steffani, so that his descendants can divide the estate.

This is one of the most difficult books I read in a long time. Ms Leons serves up so much historical detail, obscure names and subjects. It seemed this story showcases more the author knowledge in Italian, cultural events and classics in music and literature. So, if you are not into baroque opera you may find this story heavy, neither enjoyable nor interesting. 

There may be a mystery somewhere but the actual story line is so sparse and boring I was hoping for a quick ending….”This is definitely a paradise lost…..” I have no more to say……

"A Cast of Falcons", by Steve Burrows

A Cast of Falcons: A Birder Murder Mystery - Steve Burrows

A Birder Mystery book #3

As in his previous books, Mr. Burrows once again has skillfully integrated birds and birding as part of his plots and has brought the personal drama of his protagonist DCI Dominic Jejeune into a suspenseful mystery. 

A blurb:

“A man falling to his death from a remote cliff sets off a high-stakes chase for Inspector Dominic Jejeune, who pursues a ruthless killer knowing any misstep could bring down wrath from above on Dominic, his family, and the entire police force.

Meanwhile, Sergeant Danny Maik investigates the brutal murder of a researcher involved in a local climate change project.”

My thoughts:

The author uses all tools in his box to craft the perfect combination to make his mystery a joy to pass time with: such a dialogue, scene description and character development. We have two well-crafted plots, one center on researching carbon capture and sequestration and the other on falconry both are filled with suspense, unexpected twists and surprises from the start and are complex and interesting. Unfortunately the action is slow moving, keeps this pace throughout and is somewhat repetitive. Furthermore, the police procedural is totally off beat making this story a bit uneven but of course Jejeune is a transplanted Canadian an ex-pat in Norfolk trying to blend in….what more can I say….:) Dominic’s black sheep brother Damian makes an appearance and his contribution explains a lot why Dominic has such a strange behavior and is so reserved, really not what we would think of a policeman. Along the way we find out a little more about Danny Maik and Dominic’s relationship with Lindy, will this last…stay tuned.

Overall in terms of crimes, “A Cast of Falcons” has good mix of bird watching and investigating and as in great mystery the murderer is not unmasked until the very end. This series is quite original…..but may not be for everyone.

"D-Day Girls", by Sarah Rose

D-Day Girls - Sarah Rose

The spies who armed the resistance, sabotaged the Nazis, and helped win World War 11 

This is a dramatic true account of extraordinary women recruited by Britain who helped win the day on June 6, 1944 and pave the way for Allied victory.

Drawn from declassified files, diaries and oral histories, as per her notes, Ms. Rose did intensive research and has written a story of five remarkable women. These courageous women are Andrée Borrel, Odette Sansom, Lise de Baissan, Yvonne Rudellat and Mary Herbert. It is also the story of fearless men who worked by their side: Francis Suttill, Gilbert Norman, Peter Churchill and Claude de Baissic. Together, they destroyed train lines, ambushed Nazis, plotted prison breaks, and gathered crucial intelligence. Some never made it home.….

France and Environs 1940-1944.

Interesting:

A most heavy read, this account is a fascinating and important story not only of the women who worked as spies but also of the members of the resistance in France and the SOE (Secret Operations Executive) Office whose agents played key roles in the D-Day invasion. Sara Rose takes us on the dangerous journey they had to face in enemy territory. 

Not so much:

It is a hard book to get into, the narrative lacks some cohesion and something is lost in the way it is told. The story jumps from event to event, from person and person sometimes using their code names other times their real names all this with little warning. I found this distracting and mostly confusing. It also reads like it was thrown together, much unorganized, more like a history professor’s lecture notes, a person that wants to say a lot but doesn’t have time to do so. Staying focus was a challenge and I wanted to abandon this book many times but I persevered wanted to know who would make it home….

In Conclusion:

Writing a non-fiction is a daunting task. Ms. Rose has nevertheless provided us with an overall picture of the war and has supplemented her words with a lively bibliography at the end. This book is an addition to the WW11 histories and not meant to be an easy and quick read. 

I stay on the fence on this one. 

I received this ARC from Crown Publishing via NetGalleys for my thoughts

"The Sins of the Father", by Jeffrey Archer

The Sins of the Father - Jeffrey Archer

The Clifton Chronicles book #2

In this sequel to “Only Time Will Tell”, Mr. Archer continues the Clifton Chronicles with a plot-driven story that begins hastily with Harry Clifton in prison detailing his experiences after he had switched identities with Lt. Tom Bradshaw who died when his ship was sunk by a U-boat. Mr. Archer is a canny and experienced author that has made his sequel complete in itself without the benefit of what has happened before. Harry’s backstory really didn’t matter although I am glad to have read the first installment. I think it is always preferable to read series in sequence in order to understand the characters’ connections and what sparked the chain of events that follows. 

The story spans the years of World War 11 with the family drama of the Cliftons and the Barringtons continuing at top speed. This is an attention grabber from the start plunging us into the action, shifting points of views between 5 characters and peeling layers after layers of the story in every chapter. The narrative is divided into sections by character and we follow each one as the years move on during the war. All are strongly connected to Harry, the central character. The war is at the forefront and we have a few combat scenes which are vividly described and exciting. While, back in England the other characters are caught up in their own melodrama. It is quite captivating to follow them.

Mr. Archer puts a cunning twist in the very last paragraph…and, yes, we're left with another cliff-hanger, right at the end, as we're awaiting a decision from the House of Lords…..

Well now I need to read “Best Kept Secret” and not wait a year to do so…..I am curious to see what will come out of this family drama. 

"At Last", by John W. Mefford

AT Last (An Alex Troutt Thriller, Book 6) - John W. Mefford

Book #6, In Alex Trout and Redemption Thriller series

To enjoy this story I needed to put all sense of reality aside and let the action take hold and go for the ride, after all this is a thriller one of my favourite genre. Mr. Mefford has done it again and in my books “At Last” is the best one in this series by a long shot, so far….

Memories do more than haunt. They kill. Thirty years after losing a parent to a hit and run, Alex finally confronts the killer. The hunt takes her deep into the foothills of West Virginia… With Archie on board, Alex must out-think and out-smart a fanatical religious cult to get to the truth. 

This scenario will bring memories of Waco and those under the spell of fanatic leaders who brainwashed them. Known is that the followers suffered psychological abuse, sexual abuse, incest, torture…etc. all the while the Elders were stashing money away for a clean get away….Following Alex in her quest reminded me of the evils lurking in this world. It is so easy to be wrapped up in something when you are not happy. This story smoothly recreates the lives of those caught up in this terrible web and a daughter who will go to all means to get her mother back home. This story is an emotional journey hard to put aside…..

This 6th book gives us more information of how Alex grew up and why she is so determined to find her mother who may be alive and a member of a cult. 

The book starts fairly quickly and leads immediately into action and suspense, no doubts it is a grabber and a page-turner. Quite an intense scenario that is played out by a cast of great characters….Love this series and how it is slowly developing. 

Although this could be read as a standalone I highly suggest reading this series in sequence in order to follow Alex’s personal life.

Great series

"Thin Ice", by Nick Wilkshire

Thin Ice - Nick Wilkshire

“Thin Ice” is a suspenseful police procedural set in Ottawa and revolves around the murder investigation of a rookie hockey player recently signed by the Ottawa Raftsmen.

I enjoyed reading this story adding to the appeal is the setting, Ottawa is a rich and colourful city where hockey is way of life. This is a fast-pace and dialogue driven mystery that follows two homicides detectives Jack Smith and Dave Marshall on the tail of suspects when a young hockey superstar is murdered on a morning jog.

I was tuned in from the opening page and had a hard time putting this story down. The huge cast of suspects were intriguing characters, very different on their own but all had a connection with Curtis Ritchie, the hockey sensation. As the case moved on and the investigation intensified it is evident the author is a lawyer who excels in asking questions and twisting them around to get what he wants. The story has pretty interesting police procedural and dabs somewhat into the personal life of the protagonists. This story is well written with plot twists to detail us and a great ending hard to see coming. Good pacing all through and played out by interesting characters.

You don’t need to be a fan of hockey to enjoy this book. I am not by a long shot although being Canadian it was easy to make parallels with the NHL and the Ottawa Senators ….and the shenanigans going on….

"Never Let Go", by Elizabeth Goddard

Never Let Go (Uncommon Justice #1) - Elizabeth Goddard

Uncommon Justice Book # 1

The story premise is very intriguing it brings together Forensic genealogist Willow Anderson with Ex-FBI agent Austin McKade on a quest for answers regarding a baby’s abduction more than twenty years ago. The story is set against the stunning backdrop of Bridger-Teton National Forest region of Wyoming.

I am not a huge fan of romance but when suspense is thrown into a plot layered with twists hard to see coming it makes for a pretty good read. Well romance…the chemistry between Austin and Willow is hot and cold I really wanted to slap them to make a decision but again this is a necessity to show us how vulnerable relationships can be and how our past can interfere with our decisions to move forward. I like the way the author weaves in the backstory of her protagonists as the story progresses. It is also interesting to watch Willow and Austin piece together the decades of mystery behind this kidnapping. Following these two has kept me on the edge trying to see who was behind. Well it is a well-kept secret that is divulged only in the last pages. This is a story well done from its riveting opening to the satisfying conclusion…..

This fast-paced and emotional page-turner is my first experience reading Elizabeth Goddard and it will not be my last.

I received a copy of this book from Revell Books via NetGalleys for my thoughts

"Burn Rate", by Ty Patterson

Burn Rate (Zeb Carter #3) - Ty Patterson
Book # 3, in the Zeb Carter series

By weaving an exciting scenario along with his familiar characters, Mr. Patterson knows how to entertain us. “Burn Rate” is a suspenseful story created by an author with a fertile imagination. Zeb Carter and his warriors are on the trail of a terrorist who plans to kill all leaders at the G20 Summit. Leads bring them to Iran and the head of the security force is their target.

This thriller is fast and furious we have not time to catch our breath. It is action packed and very intriguing and suspenseful. We have situations in this story that are quite believable and some maybe farfetched but captivating to read. Zeb and his team do their notorious deeds and escaped unscathed …. Awe and this interesting story filled with clever twists and turns bring us to a dynamic ending…..The team did it again….outsmart the terrorists and the gang behind them….

Once again Ty Patterson wrote a white knuckle thriller that flows well and is played out by smart characters. We have incredible descriptions and amazing details everything is so vividly written you may forget this is a fiction. Well-done.