Toni

The way I see it

"Dividing Zero", by Ty Patterson

Dividing Zero - Ty Patterson

eived from the author and glad to add it to Book #1, in the Gemini series

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

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

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

"The Trout", by Peter Cunningham

The Trout: A Novel - Peter Cunningham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Aleutian Grave", by William Doonan

Aleutian Grave - William Doonan

Book #4, in the Henry Grave series

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

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

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

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

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

"King Peso", by Carmen Amato

King Peso: An Emilia Cruz Novel - Carmen Amato
Book # 4, in the Emilia Cruz Mysteries

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

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

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

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

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

 

"The Underground Railroad", by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad: A Novel - Colson Whitehead

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

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

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

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

Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Synopsis from the Pulitzer Prices site:

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

"The Zookeeper's Wife", by Diane Ackerman

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story (Movie Tie-in)  (Movie Tie-in Editions) - Diane Ackerman

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

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

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

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

Fifty Shades Darker - E.L. James
Book #2, in the Fifty Shades series

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

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

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

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

 

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

American Demon Hunters: Sacrifice - Zach Bohannon, J. Thorn, Lindsay Buroker, J.F. Penn

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Blood and Belonging", by Vicki Delany

Blood and Belonging: A Ray Robertson Mystery (Rapid Reads) - Vicki Delany

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

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

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

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

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

I received the ARC through the Early Reviewer Program

"The Thirst", by Jo Nesbo

The Thirst: A Harry Hole Novel - Jo Nesbo

Book # 11 in the Harry Hole series

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

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

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

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

"The Agent", by Mark Dawson

The Agent (An Isabella Rose Thriller) - Mark Dawson
Book #3, in the Isabella Rose Thrillers series

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

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

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

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

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

I received this review copy from Thomas & Mercer via NetGalleys
 
 

 

"The Moscow Code" by Nick Wilkshire

The Moscow Code: A Foreign Affairs Mystery - Nick Wilkshire

Book # 2, in A Foreign Affairs Mystery

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Heart of Gold", by Warren Adler

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

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

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

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

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

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author
 
 

 

"New Boy", by Tracy Chevalier

New Boy (Hogarth Shakespeare) - Tracy Chevalier
This is the author’s contribution to the Hogarth Shakespeare series

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

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

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

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


I received this ARC from Penguin Random House Canada via NetGalley
 
 

 

"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.

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