Toni

The way I see it

"The Room on Rue Amélie", by Kristin Harmel

The Room on Rue Amélie - Kristin Harmel

This is a touching story about the struggle to find normalcy during the horrors of WW11. Based on true events the tale is said from three voices in a very emotional tone. It is mainly about three lives that became interconnected by the War and the friendships that came out of it.

First we are introduced to Ruby Henderson who is swept off her feet by handsome Frenchman and relocated to Paris, till one day the war changed everything. The second narrator is 11 year old Charlotte Dacher, Ruby’s young Jewish neighbor. The war literary ripped apart her world. The third narrative comes from an attractive RAF pilot Thomas Clarke who after being shot down over the sky of France came knocking on Ruby’s door. Fate brought these three together as they fought against the Nazis….

Bring out your box of tissues this story is a tear jerker. It is quite easy to imagine oneself in the shoes of one of the characters. The story is filled with details and heart-wrenching emotion. The words are said with love, selflessness and mainly courage. This story is an absorbing tale of people willing to risk everything for freedom and of the wonderful people that would do anything to help. Even during hard times there is still good in humankind. It is quite easy to be drawn by the characters and what happens to them ……you may have to dip into your tissue box on many occasions……..Well-written, excellent characterization and a unforgettable storyline. 

I received this ARC from Simon & Schuster Canada via NetGalleys for my honest thoughts

"Sundown on Top of the World", by R.E. Donald

Sundown on Top of the World - R.E. Donald

Book#4, In A Hunter Rayne Highway Mystery

This story captures the wildness of the North, its beautiful land and the strong and resourceful people who live there. “Sundown On Top of the World”, is named after the highway that connects Dawson City, Yukon with the town of Tok, Alaska. 

The story is set in 1997 and we follow Hunter Rayne, an ex-Canadian Mountie who has changed career to become a long distance trucker on his latest haul from Vancouver to way North to Fairbanks, Alaska. He meets up with his friend Sorry, a biker who can’t hold down a job to help him with the drive. Of course what seems to be a straight forward assignment turns out to be totally deferent then expected …after the rig brakes down and the two decide to take a side trip to Eagle, Alaska…Soon the intrepid travellers finds themselves deep into the wilderness…..

There is a lot going on in this book, the author has done a great job weaving it all together in an engaging way. The players are great characters that ring true. The tempo is steady and includes twists and turns to surprise us. We go back in time when a recent murder crosses path with a cold case Hunter worked on as lead investigator more than 25 years ago. The two, present and past, narratives converge smoothly and paint a colourful and extraordinary adventure in the middle of the wilderness where only a few hard-core individuals would dare to make it their home.

This story is captivating and very interesting…a well-done whodunit story said with a Northern touch.

"The Heavies", by Ty Patterson

The Heavies: A Gripping Suspense Action Story (Warriors Series Thriller Shorts Book 6) - Ty Patterson

Book # 6, in the Warriors Shorts series

Mr. Patterson brought us once more a fast and furious and very captivating short story featuring Bwana and Roger, two of his most talented operatives. These two heavies are vacationing in Hollywood when an agent offers to cast them in a movie but instead ended up in a skirmish with the Mafia. 

88 pages of never ending suspense and a lot is said in those few pages. Mr. Patterson knows how to entertain. The drama although short contains all the essential elements to make a good story: exciting plot, great characterization and everything neatly tied up.

When I have a few moments to spare I love Mr. Patterson’s short stories to fill in between his full length thrillers

"Creep", by R.M. Greenaway

Creep: A B.C. Blues Crime Novel - Kate Greenaway

Book#3, B.C. Blues Crime series

This 3rd mystery featuring Cal Dion and David Leith is a well created and a haunted tale set against the dark side of Vancouver’s North Shore. “Creep” has also elements of a gothic suspense I loved, some quite spooky making the experience a compelling read I enjoyed immensely. Ms. Greenaway stories are getting better with each outing.

As in the previous novels “Creep” is an exciting wild ride into police procedural with deeply characterized RCMP officers as main players. Dion and Leith are on the hunt for a killer who may be responsible for the death of a hiker and also for the mauled body found in a derelict house. Reported sighting of wolf, werewolf and large dogs….is the perpetrator human or beast……. As the investigation unfolds people are starting to think yes there is a werewolf on the loose….

Mental illness and paranormal, a mix that makes one ponder why some lose concept of normalcy and in which world they live on. Ms. Greenaway brings to her story a keen understanding of frailty and is at her best when she brings us into the forbidding wilderness and plunges us along with her characters into hugely intricate murder cases. Strong narrative all through gives strengths to the investigations inevitably holds us captivated, glued to every word from start to finish. 

After 3 books, this author has finally won my heart. Her writing is economical, her plotting taut and her knowledge is sound. Well-done.

I received this ARC from Dundurn Publishers via NetGalleys for my honest thoughts.

"The Poet", by Michael Connelly

The Poet - Michael Connelly

Book #1 in the Jack McEvoy series

Not surprising Mr. Connelly is a bestselling author. “The Poet” is an intense and captivating mystery of a reporter’s single-minded pursuit of the serial killer who murdered his twin. This was his first departure from his crime novels featuring Harry Bosch, we all came to know very well. This novel was published in 1996 and won the Anthony Award and the Dilys Award the following year. Why did I take so long to read it? (Too many books on my TBR list).

The story is told mainly in the first person narrative from the perspective of reporter Jack McEvoy and his nemesis the mysterious character named “Eidolon”, Mr. Connelly switches to the third person when the story is told from the view point of Gladden, the pedophile. The transition from one character to the other is professionally done and very smooth. I really like how Michael Connelly takes us into the world of reporting. His experience as a former writer for a newspaper makes the reporter stuff such as deadlines and chasing down leads sound so authentic. Being written a long time ago makes some of the technology outdated but if you were around then you will definitely remember the phone booth, the sound of a modem dialing…a bit of nostalgia…does no harm…

Of course death is at the heart of this novel. A serial killer is at large, his target: homicide cops and the killer’s calling card is a quotation from the woks of Edgar Poe. When Jack decides that the best way to exorcise his grief is by writing a feature on police suicides he soon finds himself involved in an FBI investigation of a serial killer referred to as the Poet….Jack meets Rachael Walling, the lead investigator.

This is a page-turner I had a hard time to put down so captivated I was to see how Jack would manage to pull through the intricate web of conspiracy he found himself in. The mystery has great characterization, a plot line that moves along at a steady pace, rich and colourful narration and strong dialogue. No wonder this was and still is a winner.

"Hamfist Over Hanoi", by G.E. Nolly

Hamfist Over Hanoi: Wolfpack on the Prowl (The Air Combat Adventures of Hamilton "Hamfist" Hancock Book 4) - G. E. Nolly

Book #4 in The Air Combat Adventures of Hamilton “Hamfist” Hancock

The narrative is a vast memoir of everything that happened to the author during his tours of duty as a U.S. Air force pilot in Vietnam. Taken from actual events Mr. Nolly tells his story in his own words and has enhanced it somewhat to carries his readers along with him as if we were a co-pilot. If you like anything about flying fighters you certainly will devour this book. 

1972, Hamfist is back in action and now flies an F-4 Phantom at the start of Operation Linebacker, the bombing offensive over Hanoi. The book contains a heavy load of information on how to fly an F-4 fighter and has a lot of acronyms to go along with the narrative (a glossary of terms is at the end of the book). The author does not mince his words in this meat and potatoes conduct of the air war in Vietnam. The Rules of Engagement put many restrictions and was terribly frustrating for the pilots. Flying over the most heavily defended area in the world, dodging Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs) and dueling with enemy aircraft, the vaunted MiG-series fighters is what this book is all about. Hamfist was the last pilot to complete 100 missions over North Vietnam.

Mr. Nolly doesn’t have much respect for antiwar protesters, conscientious objectors, or for Jane Fonda, who gets a two-page rant in which she is called a traitor and compared to Tokyo Rose. I highly understand his point of view. At the time men had no choice, they were drafted into the war. The war dragged on and people ( parents, siblings, friends, wife and children) wanted their men back home…so they took to the streets…..I highly understood them also…..

Of course this book is not for everyone. I particularly liked the action, it is exciting and very well-done, I did feel being part in the daily activities of an ace pilot who flew airplanes in the Vietnam War.

"Havoc", by Steven F. Freeman

Havoc - Steven F.  Freeman

Volume # 4, in the Blackwell Files

Although this book is part of a series it works quite well as a standalone. I haven’t read the previous books and I wasn’t lost or even thought that I had missed anything.

A simple blurb:

When Cryptologist Alton Blackwell and girlfriend, FBI Agent Mallory Wilson decide to take a trip to Italy for a nice romantic vacation their pleasure was soon squashed. While on a sightseeing tour the love birds witnessed a murder, turned out the victim was a rogue employee of a high tech company arranging to sell sensitive technology to a foreign country. They soon find themselves pulled into the murder investigation.

A few thoughts:

The story is interesting and intricately woven to keep us in suspense and involved for most of the book. We are kept on edge all through trying to figure who is the brain behind the conspiracy till the very end. The author has plotted his story leaving only drips of clues while we surf amongst the many players that crosses the protagonists’ path: Italian Inspector, the mafia, a mole in the police, killers for hire…etc. this is very well- done. This International intrigue is in most part a page-turner till you magically find out the whodunit…then the story changes into a mushy romance (one, definitely written by a man). “Havoc” is unrealistic and at times disconnected….Most characters are well developed but I couldn’t stand Mallory. Too often her depiction got on my nerves and I especially detested how she called Alton “Sweetie” after all he is a grown man not 8 years old....We have weak dialogue and the narrative could have used a good shove from time to time but in all this is a good story. 

"The Snowman", by Jo Nesbo

The Snowman: A Harry Hole thriller (Oslo Sequence 5) by Nesbo. Jo ( 2010 ) Paperback - Nesbo. Jo

Book #7, in the Harry Hole series

Mr. Nesbo has certainly created a disturbing, spine-chilling and macabre story with this one. The snow is beginning to fall. A young boy is awakened and finds that his mother has disappeared, wet footprints are on the stairs and he sees a snowman with black eyes positioned to look at the bedroom window around its neck is his mother’s pink scarf……if you are a little isn’t it a way to scare you death or leave an unimaginable impression that will haunt you for a very long time. Leave it to a master storyteller to write such a story….

The book begins in 1980 but the bulk of the story is in the present day. After a blood- chilling opening DI Harry Hole makes his appearance with his new female partner Katrine Bratt and we are in the standard police procedural territory. 

Meantime, “The Snowman” is hard at work…… mothers and wives are disappearing and when a gruesome discovery is made: a severed head of a woman in placed on top of a snowman….. The pressure mounts for Harry to find the snowman….Mr. Nesbo took his chance to show us his stuff as a writer at every corner.

“The Snowman” has its own pulse that keeps it moving along with very gruesome images and eccentric flashbacks concerning a hard drinking cop. The meat of the story is the hunt for the Snowman, a serial killer who leaves an actual snowman on the site of his crimes. Mr. Nesbo gives us plenty of atmosphere through his protagonist’s observations and significant details. This thriller gives us suspense and a veritable gallery of memorable suspects and most of all a first-class roller-coaster ride. On the down side, we have many disjointed and incomprehensible plot twists and series of red herrings to content with, it gets a little confusing at time. 

Although “The Snowman” put chills on my bones, it is by no means one of my preferred books by this author. 

"Casino Excelsior", by Graham Tempest

Casino Excelsior - Graham Tempest

An Oliver Steele novel and book #2 in the Casino series

Sleuth Oliver Steele is doing what he does best always at the service to save the world and get his boss of his back. To the casino world of Las Vegas he goes, to Los Angeles death awaits at every corner. Hunted by bad guys, he runs the maze of tunnels underneath Harrods staying one step ahead and escape without a hitch. Olive won’t stop his escapades till he gets to the bottom and while doing his best to conclude his mission he will give us excitement in Monte Carlo and in the hope of wrapping things up he will take a trip to the island of St-Lydia and will entertain us at every turn. I may be off in order of things but Oliver gives us quite a hellish ride. 

Doesn’t this sound exciting and a most captivating read?, of course it does and once again Mr. Tempest has provided a quick read filled with suspense and intrigue with many plot twists. The language is down to earth: simple, concise and peppered with a touch of humour. The characters are well- thought, varied and interesting. I particularly love Oliver; he plays his role to a tee: a disgraced British accountant who does odd jobs for Tish, a billionaire. When Tish calls, Oliver is expected to jump….and he does. Taking us inside the biggest casinos we learn how high rollers play their games and how it may be easy to cross international boundaries to be the top winners. It gives us a behind the scenes perspective….

“Casino Excelsior” is an easy and fun read I enjoyed passing time with. 

I received a copy from the author for my thoughts, thank you Mr. Tempest

"The Lewis Man", by Peter May

The Lewis Man - Peter  May

Book #2, in The Lewis Trilogy

This second episode takes place sometime after the end of “The Blackhouse”. Finn MacLeod has returned to his emotional home on the island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides and plans to restore his parents’ derelict house but before getting to the task, he finds himself embroiled in a murder case. The body of a man buried in a peat bog since the late 1950s….George Gunn, a constable on the island who worked with him before, hope to identify the victim and solve the case.

DNA shows the victim to be related to Tormond MacDonald but the poor man has dementia questioning him proof to be a challenge but he is the clue to solving the mystery. The author depicts Tormond movingly, in which past and present is very confused. But questioning him triggers memories back to his childhood and recounting his youth is the heart of this wonderful yet heartbreaking story. 

Back and forth the narrative alternates between the old man memories and the present day where Finn is searching for the identity of the dead man as well as re-establishing old relationships. The story is very well told, with great sense of atmosphere and place but take your map out Finn travels up and down the islands and his journey crosses beautiful scenery: beaches, wild cliffs and unforgiving weather.

Once again Mr. May weaves his wonderful magic as the story unfolds in vivid details. The story is completely absorbing, I was immersed in this drama from the get-go and I soon felt like a hidden spectator witnessing events as they unfolded, so into it I felt. The characterization is outstanding.

This is a gripping story told by a master storyteller and one of my new found authors I will read more of. 

"The Shadow District", by Arnaldur Indridason

The Shadow District - Arnaldur Indridason

Book #1 in the Reykjavik Wartime Mysteries series

In the first book of a new crime series Mr Indridason introduces us to new players while providing a great window into Icelandic culture and exploring at the same time his signature themes of greed and abuse of power once more. 

This story covers a fascinating period. Here we have two policemen, one Icelandic working in Reykjavik and the other is a Canadian and a member of the armed forced, he is of Icelandic heritage and speaks Icelandic. Stephan and Flovent are the wartime players on the case. As the story moves back and forth in time, Konrad a retired policeman working in our time becomes interested in the case from the war years and here we go back in time……this is very well done.

As the narrative switches between two investigations and two timelines, Mr. Indridason precise prose keeps the details of the separate timeline clear without any embellishment. With minimalist words and gentle dialogue the author has skillfully weaves two classic whodunit cases. 

Mr. Indridason has definitely did a lot of research to find the right atmosphere for the time and give us an enlightening storyline filled with aspects surrounding the relationship between the Icelandic women and the troops “The Situation” as it was known. The social and historical climate and the police procedural are all deftly orchestrated to make a captivating and emotional charged drama.

This is a gripping and a very captivating read.

"Map of Shadows", by J.F. Penn

Map od Shadows - J.F. Penn

Book # 1 in the Mapwalkers series

This new series is a dark fantasy and a pretty weird story, not to mention gory to no end. A map of skin etched in blood and a world under threat…..

Those of us fans of this author already knows how creative she is and how richly and cleverly written her stories are. Well no exception here. Vividly said Bath comes to life with creepy characters and supernatural happenings. This intriguing story based on maps and cartographers propels us into a fantasy world where a mysterious agency maintains the borders between this word and the Uncharted. Spooky, indeed

On the surface Bath is a genteel place but Ms. Penn imagination show us that there is a darker side to the city. Beneath the charming streets lies a weird city, a place haunted by mysterious power. Here, local legends play a good part. Sienna Farren is the main character and is aided by colourful secondary players that have magical abilities and terrifying shadows to scare us to death…

Although this book as many good qualities I honestly cant’ say it drew me in, too weird for my taste but I must say parts reflect our real world where countries are ravaged by war, famine, poverty, terrorism and many other afflictions leaving their people to suffer the consequences…totally abandoned.

I received this ARC from the author for my thoughts. It may not have been my preferred book but it is definitely not one to pass over…..give it a go. 

"Night of the Assassin", by Russell Blake

Night of the Assassin - Russell Blake

Book# 0.5 in the Assassin series

This prequel to “King of Swords” is a raw and unflinching thriller introducing El Rey, one of Russell Blake’s most brutal characters. 

The book opens with the deadly El Rey as he carries out his latest job- the assassination of a drug cartel boss. Then the story switched to his childhood where we find out how he was groomed to become the most notorious and deadliest assassin known to date. The story is framed against the backdrop of Mexico drug trafficking and in the midst of a bloody war of power. 

The world of Drug cartels depicted in this book is very scary but fortunately the author spares us the many gory details. As the story keeps moving it tells us how El Rey setups his hits and how he manages to get away. No doubt, the plot is fast-paced, one that kept me on the edge waiting for his next move. It is definitely an action filled thriller that grabs attention from the first page and holds it all through. Although violent, I loved this cold blooded killer; El Rey is all what I expected from this kind of character. Mr. Blake excels in moving his plot between characters and scenes and pulling us into the environment of a deadly killer. 

The story is well-written, moves along without getting bogged down and is an easy and captivating read.

"Determined", by A. Avraham Perlmutter

Determined: The Story of Holocaust Survivor Avraham Perlmutter - A. Avraham Perlmutter Ph.D.

With incredible visual additions such as genuine photographs and documentation from the wartime and beyond, Mr. Perlmutter has crafted a no-hold account of his life during WW11 and after.

His memoirs does not emphasizes on the gruesome atrocities committed by the Nazis but rather focuses on the survival of one young man and how he made a successful life for himself in Israel and in the United States after the war. His account touches on some of the people who orchestrated his various escape or hid him from the Nazis. It is an important story that tells how determined even at a young age the need to survive by taking risks and keep pushing the limits in order to succeed. 

The first part of the book focusses on the kindness and generosity he experienced during the war and the multiple miracles that allowed him to survive. The rest of the book concentrates on what happened after the war.

This moving story is unique both in content and in tone. His personal journey with detailed descriptions gives us a glimpse of his adventurous life filled with danger and risks and evokes the feeling of compassion as you walk in the shoes of a brilliant young man determined to survive.

Although the book is a quick read it is also one difficult to follow. The narrative has a plethora of people to keep track of with names hard to remember. The timeline is inconsistent and all over the place for most part till it found a better rhythm then the words flowed at a steady and even pace. It is a bit of a choppy account but having said this, I nevertheless say that Mr. Perlmutter has an amazing memory to have given so many details while providing many photos and documents to support his words.

"All my Love Detrick", by Robert Kagan

All My Love, Detrick - Roberta Kagan

A Historical novel of Love and Survival during The Holocaust

Book #1, in the All My Love Detrick Series

“All My Love Detrick” tells the story of a Jewish girl and a German boy who fall in love just as Hitler is appointed Chancellor of Germany. This is a very human and a most touching fiction of forbidden love and friendship I read in a long time. The story begins in 1923 when Detrick Haswell was seven years old, the timeline and narrative travels through the 30’s, WW11 and some years later.

This is a sweet story simplistic told in short chapters in everyday language. There is a lot going on, seemed the author wanted to squeeze every important events that happened in the many decades the story covers. It is a bit confusing at times, the tale jumps from place to place from character to character sometimes in mid-chapter. Having said this, I overpassed those hicks and nevertheless stayed captivated throughout. The premise here is good even if the topic of the Holocaust has been touched zillions of times before, it could not be revisited enough IMO. I also believe the author’s scenario could have happened many times over.

I enjoyed this book with its many threads. The many characters are well-crafted and I find myself caring for them all. But mid-way, one seemed to disappear and I still wonder what happened, oh well maybe in book 2….not all the threads were neatly wrapped….again this is a series….who knows what the author has in mind next…..

If you are a historical buff this book may not be for you but if you enjoy a light war story with a lot of romance this one may be up your alley. In whole it is worth reading.

"Identity Thief", by J.P. Bloch

Identity Thief - Spencer J. Bloch

Once you have started this psychological thriller you will not put it down. This quick read with lots of twists has kept me captivated from page one and held my attention through every chapters till I reached the unexpected ending. I simply loved it.

The story is structured in alternating chapters between the view point of the identity thief and the victim, Dr. Jesse Falcon. The plot has layers upon layers of deceit; no one is who they seem. Nothing is simple in this fast-paced, sometime darkly comic thriller. The pieces of the puzzle are continually shifting and at every corner there is constant barrage of shocks, so forget trying to guess the outcome.

This is a cleverly and brilliantly roller-coaster ride filled with emotional and scarring issues. A story of a thief and victim both trying to stay two steps ahead of the other is no less attention grabbing, this one tops all. What set this story from others is you are soon thrust into a world of action with Dr. Jesse Falcon whose identity is stolen going through endless hoops to find the person causing him so much turmoil. You learn and understand the main characters from flashbacks and from their actions and what they are thinking. The supporting cast also have their own plans lurking in the shadows. The narration moves along smoothly making this story easy to read. Well-done.