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Toni

The way I see it

"War, Spies. and Bobby Sox", by Libby Fischer Hellmann

War, Spies & Bobby Sox - 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

"Nazi Gold", by Tom Bower

Nazi Gold - 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.

"Black December", by Scott Hunter

Black December - 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……

"Killer Femmes 2: Libby Fischer Hellmann

Killer Femmes 2: Small Bites - Christine Kling, Libby Fischer Hellmann, Julie Smith, Sujata Massey, Zoë Sharp

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

"A Dubious Artifact", by Gerald J. Kubicki

A Dubious Artifact - 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.

"Trophies of War", by Christopher Remy

Trophies of War - 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.

"The Survivors" by Angela White

The Survivors: Book One (Life After War) - 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.
 
 
 

 

"Everyone Brave is Forgiven", by Chris Cleave

Everyone Brave is Forgiven - 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

The Only Girl - 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

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

The Light Between Oceans: A Novel - 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

"The Tunnels", by Greg Mitchell

The Tunnels: Escapes Under the Berlin Wall-and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill - 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

 
 

 

"Enemy Action", by Mike Hollow

Enemy Action - 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

A Shimmer of Hummingbirds: A Birder Murder Mystery - 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 procedurals 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 characterisation: 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.

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

The Senator's Youngest Daughter - 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

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

End of Days (ARKANE Book 9) - 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

Casino de France: An Oliver Steele Thriller (Volume 4) - 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.