Toni

The way I see it

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

"Algonquin Sunset", by Rick Revelle

Algonquin Sunset: An Algonquin Quest Novel (An Algonguin Quest Novel) - Rick Revelle

Book #3, in the Algonquin Quest series

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

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

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

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

"Do not Say We have Nothing" by Madeleine Thien

Do Not Say We Have Nothing: A Novel - Madeleine Thien

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

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

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

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

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

"Bird's Eye View", by Elinor Florence

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

"Goodnight from London", by Jennifer Robson

Goodnight from London: A Novel - Jennifer Robson

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

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

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

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

This is a cozy and enjoyable read

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

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

The Dubious SIM Team: Colton Banyon Mystery  #26 - Kristopher Kubicki, Gerald J. Kubicki

Book # 26, in the Colton Banyon Mystery series

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

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

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

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

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

"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

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