Toni

The way I see it

"Auschwitz Lullaby", by Mario Escobar

Auschwitz Lullaby - Mario Escobar

Based on true historical events and real people, “Auschwitz Lullaby “brings to life the story of Helene Hannemann—a woman who sacrificed everything for family and fought furiously for the children she hoped to save.

In a straightforward and poetic style Mr. Escobar tells an enthralling story involving the Nazi persecution of Gypsies, Jews and other minorities during WW11. Helene was a German woman married to a Gypsy man, they had five children when they were brutally removed from their home and sent to Auschwitz. Helene could have evaded arrest, however she rather be with her family. This novel tells how as a German nurse under Dr. Mengele managed to keep hope in the midts of the darkness.

Mr. Escobar expertly describes the setting and characters while maintaining a captivating and fast-paced storyline that is brutal, honest and heartbreaking. The author demonstrates through his words the power of sacrifice and the strength of human dignity even when there is no hope left. This sad journey is powerful, haunting, chilling and one that shook me to my core. The pages are filled with the evil intentions and practices of Dr. Mengele but what is more remarkable is the strength and bravery of Helene Hannemann. All through her ordeal Helene sang a beautiful lullaby to calm the children…..

This is definitely not a feel good story but a well-researched one filled with details right down to the smells….it really feels as the author spent time in the camps….

This is an excellent novel worth spending time reading

Thank you to Thomas Nelson for providing me with a copy of this book through NetGalley. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

"Deadly Straits". by R.E. McDermott

Deadly Straits - R.E. McDermott

Book #1, in the Tom Dugan Thrillers series

Not having spent time in the marine industry and one who is by far not fond on being captive in a tin can of any size, thrillers involving ships and its operations are not my favorite topics. Having said this, the plot will nevertheless capture the imagination of ship geeks….this techno-thriller with all the juice and characters hop-scotching through exotic locales will surely please the majority of readers.

The central character is Tom Dugan, a skilled professional who travels the world as an operating engineer on ships, he is one the good guys. As for the bad guys they are many of them most are motivated by religious fanaticism and some simply by greed. They are all sadistic as we would expect them to be. “Deadly Straits”, is a fast paced and multilayered plot that travels from Singapore, Malaysia, London , Malacca, Panama, Chechnya, Teheran, Virginia. 9/11 told us it is possible to used aircraft as flying bombs, “Deadly Straits”, suggest that huge tankers can be also used as weapons….Some said this plot is entirely possible and realistic….terrorists gaining control of loaded tankers and using them as weapons in straits to block flow of traffic. This story tells a scary account on how they may attempt this…..

This is one convoluted story very I had a hard time keeping focus on. Following the many characters with strange names was a challenge and keeping track of who is a good guy and who is a bad guy was even more. Mr. McDermott has definitely deployed his knowledge of ships and navigation with the many details about manoeuvering and detonating supertankers. Maybe he did a too good job doing so. The many threads that bounce from storyline to storyline make this book long and complex and not all that interesting… I struggled to keep up till the end …

"White Liners", by R.E. Donald

White Liners: Hunter Rayne Highway Mystery Sketches - R.E. Donald

A Hunter Rayne Highway Mystery Sketches

I didn’t realize this was a series of three very short stories 21 pages in all, sketches introducing the author’s main character and two supporting players in the main series “Hunter Rayne Highway Mysteries”. I like the main series so when I saw “White Liners” I just picked it up but what a disappointment when I noticed what this book really was. I don’t really know why authors spend time doing this kind of promotion….it was a freebie at the time, thank goodness. 

Each stories is way too short to have time getting into the swig of it, to get hooked and be captivated. As soon as you open the story it is already finished….so what is the point……

Pass on this one, but give the full novels a chance they are well-worth it. I read a few and have enjoyed them immensely.

"An Eye for Murder", by Libby Fischer Hellmann

An Eye for Murder: An Ellie Foreman Mystery - Libby Fischer Hellmann

Book #1, in the Ellie Foreman mystery

This mystery is a blend of politics, history and suspense. It begins with an exchange between two men in Prague in 1944 and the story proceeds with the ramification to contemporary Chicago.

The main character is Ellie Foreman, a documentary filmmaker, who becomes an amateur sleuth when an old Jewish man she did not know dies and her address was found among his belongings. A string of murders and attempted murder follow and inquisitive Ellie pokes her nose into the mystery that will lead to links between Nazi war crimes and a present day politician running for office.

This debut story is very entertaining, a clever mystery puzzle that is somewhat funny. Both the multi-generational historical mystery and the political one are well- done. The author is good at putting clues and red herrings to intrigue us and to keep us on the edge of our seat, guessing and of course turning pages. The action is interesting and not overly-done: no shoot out and no graphic murders…smooth sailing….The narration and dialogue are in the everyday language. The romance needed a stronger push to get going and finally the rare sex scenes lacked enthusiasm….quite vanilla….maybe with time things will get hot… I like Ellie, she is likeable, a single mother with a deadbeat ex-husband, doing her best and she is surely entertaining….This cozy mystery is a fast read that nicely wraps up at the end.

"No Return Address", by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

No Return Address - Gail Anderson-Dargatz

I received this Rapid Reads from Orca Book Publishers via the Early Reviewers Program for my thoughts.

Short and sweet, this large print paper book which also includes a preview of the author’s next book is just under 130 pages long. “”No Return Address” is a hearth warming story about how a family grows apart and what is necessary to bring them back together. 

Rhonda receives mysterious package in the mail from her mom who passed away the previous year. Curious she turns to people around her and along the way she makes new friends and reconnects with her brother.

I love those little books perfect to squeeze in when time is not on our side. Ms. Dargatz knows how in simple words make an impact that will make us think. Wouldn’t you also be curious? Although not very long the storyline is captivating and suspenseful and is said in a prose that is warm and down to heart. Well-done.

Rapprochement is a bigger gift that one can ever imagine….

"We are Holding the President Hostage", by Warren Adler

We Are Holding the President Hostage - Warren Adler
“We Are Holding the President Hostage” is a powerful tale of terrorism and revenge originally published in 1986. 

This title may be a dead giveaway but this book is nonetheless a high-octane thriller that has gripped me from the very start and kept me riveted till the last page and sometime after. 

Summary:

When terrorists capture the daughter and grandson of a Mafia Don in Egypt, the Don cleverly insinuates himself into the White House and holds the President and his wife hostage.

Although basic, the plot is intriguing and well- done. The story takes place in the White House and the kidnapped hostages’ part is in the Middle East. The author skillfully keeps the tension going in this deadly game of bluff as the struggle between the two sides intensifies and the hostages are just plain pawns in a war of nerves. This is a mind game between the characters, a real cerebral chess match. This story excels in the contrast between the men and how they use their power over the other.

The style is clean cut, no profanity or sex scenes and as the drama progresses each character share their point of view on their situation as well as their feelings and fears… 

If you enjoy politically savvy action novel, this quick and fun read may be up your alley. 

 

"Foundryside", by Robert Jackson Bennett

Foundryside - Robert Jackson Bennett

Book #1, in the Founders series

This is one weird story that may please fans of heists and mostly those enjoying fantasies. Reading this book was a new experience for me, I did not know of Mr. Bennett and less of his works so I was eager to see what he had in store for me the main reason I accepted the invitation to read “Foundryside”.

The plot is mostly a series of heists and a cat and mouse game taking place in a city controlled by merchant houses. The setting is at the most unusual, a unrealistic vision beyond fantasy where the players use a complex magic system “scriving” for their purpose and to interact with the world…….

To be fair, this is not my preferred genre and by far. Reviews praised this book but I never finished it…I rarely do this but ¾ into it I had enough and closed it. I urge readers to see what others reviewers think before discarding this book.

What made me stop reading the book?

Too much information dumping, the author spends a lot of time describing the “scriving” on objects and tends to repeat himself. The scenes were too hard to visualize, the action too Harry Potter for my taste, the vernacular language that kept creeping at times was hard to follow. To be picky I also didn’t like the presentation: to differentiate the narrators the story is told by alternating pages some written in regular style text and others in italics. I also found the book to have a strange combination of “scriving” and politics. Finally, this story never tweaked…. definitely I am not a fan of fantasies…. 

On the positive side

The story is at most imaginative, the magic system quite original, the constant mystery behind Sancia’s power added suspense and some intrigue, as for the characterization: the players are fairly well-developed. 

Since “Foundryside” did not strike a chord it was a hard book for me to rate. But this story may be up your alley, so take my review with a grain of salt. My apologies to the author for my unfavourable thoughts.

My thanks to Crown Publishing and NetGalley for the advanced reader copy.

"A Rumored Fortune", by Joanna Davidson Politano

A Rumored Fortune - Joanna Davidson Politano
In this historical romance set during the Victorian era we find a destitute heiress and her greedy relatives competing in a fast-paced treasure hunt to find a vast fortune hidden somewhere on a vineyard estate in the south of England.

This is a cute story that is mainly told through Tressa Harlowe’s viewpoint. Although it has a religious undertone it provides a lot of intrigue within its pages to have kept me interested from the starting point. Anyways, who doesn’t love a treasure hunt which is paired with wonderful characters and plunges the members of a family into an exciting mystery, no doubt, you will inevitably end up with a pretty good story one that will have you flipping the pages to see the end result. Clean style, no inappropriate language nor profound spiritual truths emanating throughout, this book is elegantly penned for all to enjoy. Along the way, we learn some ins and outs about vineyards and passages in Scripture concerning vines. Not a bad mix.

I enjoyed many of the characters but my favourite is Donegan Vance, he is blunt, kind and loyal, a stark contrast from most other players in this story. Tressa is a soul in need of rescue and the author’s words highlights her growing despair. God is her only source of hope till she reached the moment of sudden insight…..awe…..and love is in the air……..These two individuals made the whole story a charm to read.

I received this ARC from the publisher via the First Reviewers Program 
 
 

 

"The Norma Conquest", by Warren Adler

The Norma Conquest - Warren Adler

Mr. Adler is at the top of my favourite authors list. His style is so diverse you never know what genre he will surprise us with next. In his huge varied library we find psychological and political thrillers, fantasy, romance, mysteries, comedy, family relationships, historical fiction, cozy and short story. Boy what a prolific author. I am happy to be one of his faithful fan and member of his reviewing team.

“The Norma Conquest” offers a brief view into the last hurrahs by a long time agitator and now a homeless activist in a battle to save a women’s shelter from being relocated. Norma is the underdog that will lead the fight against a tycoon and his partners till she gives her last breath. The story is both heartbreaking and joyous when Norma’s ill health brings her daughter Jenny back to her after years apart. Family bonds are stronger than we can imagine……

I love this story but it took time before I put things together 70 pages or so by then I slowly realized that I was being pulled into a captivating quest alongside Norma and Jenny to save the homeless women their home. This is a wonderful and extremely well written story that is played by well-drawn characters even the evil men are attractive. The rapprochement between mother and daughter is very touching, in the long run both reached the same vision and ideas but sadly it came too late…..A warning the narrative and dialogue are street jargon and we have a lot of the F words…..exactly what one would hear….well-done Mr. Adler this story was well worth passing time with.

"Ark of Blood", by J.F. Penn

Ark of Blood: An ARKANE Thriller Book 3 (Volume 3) - J F Penn

Also under the title “Exodus”

Book # 3, in the Arkane series

This novel may be the 3rd book in the Arkane series but it isn’t the 3rd I have enjoyed so far. I have read and reviewed most of them out of sync and I assure you that I never felt lost choosing one book over the other. Each has its own merits and its own interesting story to tell. “Ark of Blood” brings us mainly to Cairo, Egypt, Jordan and Israel.

This fiction is a solid mix of fact and mythology with plenty of action and intrigue. The story centers on a search for the sacred Ark of the Covenant by competing sides who want to derail the fragile peace summit in Israel. Morgan Sierra, our heroine, will do anything to avoid this to happen.

Against the backdrop of the escalating violence in the Middle East, Ms. Penn’s richly writes a plot that is a well-researched escapade into the mystic world where Morgan will face Natasha, her nemesis, in a cat and mouse game as they pursue the Ark at any cost. The fast-moving action sequences are skillfully incorporated with Morgan’s inner battles with life and death. Ms. Penn skills lie on her ability to paint rich details and intricate observations to draw us in. This story shocks and has graphic ritual scenes of killings that will impress. 

Although this story is excellent it did not grab me as much as all the others I have read in the past. In this one, much time was dedicated on the rich narrative to the expense of the plot. Finding the Ark was too easy and the outcome so predictable….Good story but not my preferred.

Copy of this book was provided by the author 

"At Once", by John W. Mefford

AT Once (An Alex Troutt Thriller, Book 3) - John W. Mefford
An Alex Trout Thriller book #3

This book is part of the Redemption Thriller series

Who doesn’t like a mystery that is full of sass and suspense, Mr. Mefford provides plenty of it with this one. Even if it is part of a series “At Once” can be read on its own, although I always prefer reading books in sequel. No worries if you pick it up at this point, the author does introduce his characters without overwhelming us with their past, so we can easily slip into the drama and not be totally lost. It has been awhile since I read book #2 and I had no trouble getting into the swing of things……

At center stage is FBI Agent Alex Troutt. In the opening pages Alex is called out to investigate murders in the Boston area: someone is detonating bombs killing priests and targeting individuals. But her job doesn’t stop there she is also asked by FBI assistant director to go undercover investigating one of their own who may have ties to known terrorist…. Alex is one of those kick-ass Agents…. No more spoilers from me…..

Snail pace may be too fast to describe how this mystery moves along but having said this I do think we are given a suspenseful story with plenty of twists and turns to derailed us. A mix of well-defined characters: some charismatic good people and some colourful evil ones play their roles with a good doze of entertainment. The setting of the old city of Boston and its very well-traveled shady neighborhoods couldn’t be better including the visit to a pawn shop that brings a spin on its own. We also have a touch a humour and some almost burlesque moments to make us smile….

This book is dialogue driven from cover to cover. In alternate chapters, the investigators as well as the perpetrators do a lot of bickering and exchanges. In the long run I got tired of this and at time I simply tuned out. One of my pet peeves here…..the unnecessary repetitive dialogue. The second pet peeves: Unrealistic action. 

Most reviewers enjoyed immensely this book. It may not have been one of my favourites but this series is too good not to keep up with it. 
 
 

 

"Zeb Carter", by Ty Patterson

Zeb Carter - Ty Patterson

Book #1, in the Zeb Carter series

This is a new series by Mr. Patterson that is quite promising. Although it may seem weird for those who are fans of the author’s main series to go back in time when Zeb Carter was a young man and not yet the head of his Warriors Enterprise, this spin off brings us deeper into Zeb’s character and straight into more suspense. Our protagonist in this return to the start is an ex- military who takes a secret rescue missing in Afghanistan and he does that single handed. Extracting three US soldiers from the hands of the Taliban alone is not an easy task. But this kind of challenge is what Zeb does best.

Reading how Zeb, the strategist, and how he goes about doing his task is a hectic read to say the least. This operative is not afraid to die and when he sets out to flush a Taliban warlord off the hills of a very hostile country there is not a minute of inaction. All hell breaks loose and there is a lot of violence as you can imagine. Fast-paced and tension laced ride we are in for from start to finish and the action never stops….who is going to be killed next….

This story may be your typical thriller where we have a mix of action, conspiracies, betrayals and lots of killing but how Mr. Patterson spins his tale is what set this story apart from all the others. “Zeb Carter” is definitely an edge-of-the seat read hard to put down. What a roller coaster ride Zeb gives us through the harsh terrains looking for the missing men while dodging the Taliban but the saga doesn’t end with the death of the insurgents there are those who conspired against him and knew of his covert mission to content with…..

Quite entertaining

"Zeb Carter", by Ty Patterson

Zeb Carter - Ty Patterson

Book #1, in the Zeb Carter series

This is a new series by Mr. Patterson that is quite promising. Although it may seem weird for those who are fans of the author’s main series to go back in time when Zeb Carter was a young man and not yet the head of his Warriors Enterprise, this spin off brings us deeper into Zeb’s character and straight into more suspense. Our protagonist in this return to the start is an ex- military who takes a secret rescue missing in Afghanistan and he does that single handed. Extracting three US soldiers from the hands of the Taliban alone is not an easy task. But this kind of challenge is what Zeb does best.

Reading how Zeb, the strategist, and how he goes about doing his task is a hectic read to say the least. This operative is not afraid to die and when he sets out to flush a Taliban warlord off the hills of a very hostile country there is not a minute of inaction. All hell breaks loose and there is a lot of violence as you can imagine. Fast-paced and tension laced ride we are in for from start to finish and the action never stops….who is going to be killed next….

This story may be your typical thriller where we have a mix of action, conspiracies, betrayals and lots of killing but how Mr. Patterson spins his tale is what set this story apart from all the others. “Zeb Carter” is definitely an edge-of-the seat read hard to put down. What a roller coaster ride Zeb gives us through the harsh terrains looking for the missing men while dodging the Taliban but the saga doesn’t end with the death of the insurgents there are those who conspired against him and knew of his covert mission to content with…..

Quite entertaining

"I Am Missing", by Ty Patterson

I Am Missing - Ty Patterson

Book #3, in the Gemini series

We are following twin sisters Meghan and Beth into one captivating tale full of twists and turns as they bring us deep into the jungle of Vietnam looking into the disappearance of a man who exists and yet doesn’t. Cole Pattern is the client and says he is missing and wants the twins to find him….

Entertaining read as always. The story goes back and forth in time between the present and during the Vietnam War as the twins try to get to the bottom and find out what may have happened to their client. Fast-paced, full of action, betrayal and lies and two protagonists that can’t stay out of trouble what more can we ask. I am grateful the author always includes some background regarding his characters without overwhelming us with too many details so we can situate ourselves or pick up the series at this point. 

This adventure is thrilling and one hard to put aside. Once into it I just zipped through it in no time totally immersed not only with the twins’ saga but with the descriptions of Vietnam during the conflict. Tunnel rats at work and what they had to endure made for a fantastic read. Well-written thriller, populated with exciting and warm characters and an exciting plot.

Well done Mr. Patterson thank you for providing a copy of this book

"The Assassin", by Mark Dawson

The Assassin - Mark  Dawson

Book # 4, in the Isabella Rose series

This latest is one fascinating story where we are plunged into constant action and are overloaded with visual details. Mr. Dawson knows how to draw his readers into a plot filled with excitement and enticed them with charismatic players. Isabella and Maia are kick-ass characters that take center stage and entertain us from the opening page till we reach the slam-bang finale.

Both are assassins have been together for a year now it is time to put their dangerous plan to action……cunning, wit and everything comes out in this thrilling story. Although it is a fascinating one it quite stretches credibility but is fun to read. Mr. Dawson pushes his plot at a hectic pace through a world of unsavory characters and delivers a gripping page turner. 

This story is all action and very violent at times, definitely not for the faint-hearted. To match the mood we find a dialogue that can be quite colourful at times…. We have loads of supporting characters some recurring and some new players to treat us. But don’t worry if you pick up at this point this latest story stands well by itself. 

Mr. Dawson provides maximum excitement in all his series. I am a fan for many years now and have enjoyed all of his series. He is quite a storyteller.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher Thomas & Mercer via NetGalleys

"Remember Tokyo", by Nick Wilkshire

Remember Tokyo - Nick Wilkshire
Book #3, in A Foreign Affairs Mystery

“A Foreign Affairs Mystery” is quite a different type of mystery; it gives us a very Canadian twist to immerse ourselves into and one charismatic main player, Charlie Hillier, to follow. I love to see how he manages to jump the multiple hurdles he has to face in order to do his diplomatic job.

After leaving Russia on his last posting as consular Charlie is sent to immerse himself in a truly foreign culture….Tokyo …watch out ….Charlie is not your ordinary consular.

After his misadventures both in Havana (book#1) and Moscow (book#2) Charlie wants to play low key but he is soon drawn into a case of a young man who winds up in a coma after a car accident….or maybe it wasn’t an accident after all?...Charlie is definitely a magnet for trouble and in “Remember Tokyo” he finds more than can be imagined. Along the way in this fast-paced mystery we have colourful details of life in the city: crowded metro system, food and the polite culture and custom…. including the corruption that is lurking at every corner.

This series is one of my favourite. Charlie may be a consular but he has great investigative skills and a strong and loveable personality. The protagonist not only faces ruthless criminals in his day to day job he also goes beyond all means helping expatriates in distress. Trying to shift truth from deceit and get to the bottom of what happened without causing an international incident is a feat in itself for Charlie…..but of course things rarely turns out the way he plans….what a thrill we have following him through another wonderful journey. And as in the previous novels, to help with his case is a beautiful woman to be smitten of and… to eventually leave behind once he is reassigned to another post….or recalled home…sometime in disgrace.

I agree with those saying this is a well-plotted travel-crime novel with great characterization and I love how diplomatic rules are not one he complies with rigidly….well-done.

I received this ARC from the publisher Dundurn Press via NetGalleys for my thoughts