Toni

The way I see it

"Always Look Twice", by Elizabeth Goddard

Always Look Twice - Goddard,  Elizabeth

Uncommon Justice #2

Harper Reynolds is the star in this soft suspense/modern day romance story and Deputy Heath McKade, a childhood friend, is called to keep an eye on our heroine.

In a few words:

Harper has traded her job as a crime scene photographer for the serenity of the outdoors in Jackson Hole Wyoming but things did not turned as she wished when she captured a murder being committed and had to flee the scene in fear….Now someone is out to silence her. When the sheriff’s department cannot find any evidence of the murder she had witnessed both Harper and Heath are determined to try to put pieces of the crime together and keep safe.

My thoughts:

I’m not a Romantic Suspense fan. This type has always been a hit or miss genre for me but since I read the first book I had to give this one a go. Mostly not my cup of tea but who knows curious as I am…..

This story drew me in at first with some of the exciting scenes but in the long run I found the tempo became lethargic and seemed to be turning in circle for many chapters till we reached the final pages where everything sprang into action and provided enough suspense with twists and turns and finally we had some excitement. Along the way, we have a scene or two that had me almost holding my breath…. (I let you discover them) Done beautifully is on concealing the identity of the “who” till the last moment. Leaving the fun for us to figure out who really was behind all this excitement.

The characters are interesting, likable and well rounded. Their struggles seemed real although I did get frustrated by how much they focused on the past but it was nice that they finally moved on by the end and allowed to find healing. Awe…. and a budding romance….

The story has a good message of faith, caring for people and second chances all said in a style that is clean and smoothly narrated to make it an easy and pleasant read.

“Always Look Twice” is a novel I both appreciated and enjoyed, I also struggled to keep my attention at bay but I failed to do so in too many places to say this novel was the best book I had read in a long time. But in whole, it is well-done.

I receive a copy of this book from the publisher Revell via NetGalleys for my thoughts.

"Passport to Death", by Yigal Zur

Passport to Death - Yigal Zur

Book #2 in the Dotan Naor Series

The story in a few words:

Dotan Naor, an Israeli private investigator, goes to Thailand to find Sigal Bardon who has disappeared in Bangkok. Dotan is familiar with the city’s dark side and he knows in his search every path will be blocked but this will not deter him in his pursuit for Sigal Bardon. Dotan is one who specializes in rescuing missing young Israelis abroad.

My thoughts:

Dotan, this tough-talking Tel Aviv private eye narrates his story and his voice inevitably pulls you next to him as we follow him in his search for the missing woman. The dark and seedy side of the city is dissected in all its glory with sensual pleasures and all the corruption you can imagine. This drama is fast moving and is filled with gritty thrills which had me flipping the pages so captivated by Dotan’s pursuit of the elusive Sigal. Along the way he encounters a number of stock characters: a know it all cabbie, a matriarch madam, a drug boss and we learn everything we need to know about the sex and narcotics trade. As the search goes on I had no idea where things were going and if Sigal would ever be found but the suspense is in the uncertainty of no knowing…..and this is very well-done. The added flavour is the exotic locale which Dotan navigates and brings him to dead end bars, addicts with no way out and every form of crime. Things did not stop there, Dotan also goes to place where he has to confront the ghosts of the past…

This is an easy and fast read that delivers suspense cover to cover.

“Passport to Death” is Dotan second mission his first can be read in “ Death in Shangri-La”

"Passport to Death", by Yigal Zur

Passport to Death - Yigal Zur

Book #2 in the Dotan Naor Series

The story in a few words:

Dotan Naor, an Israeli private investigator, goes to Thailand to find Sigal Bardon who has disappeared in Bangkok. Dotan is familiar with the city’s dark side and he knows in his search every path will be blocked but this will not deter him in his pursuit for Sigal Bardon. Dotan is one who specializes in rescuing missing young Israelis abroad.

My thoughts:

Dotan, this tough-talking Tel Aviv private eye narrates his story and his voice inevitably pulls you next to him as we follow him in his search for the missing woman. The dark and seedy side of the city is dissected in all its glory with sensual pleasures and all the corruption you can imagine. This drama is fast moving and is filled with gritty thrills which had me flipping the pages so captivated by Dotan’s pursuit of the elusive Sigal. Along the way he encounters a number of stock characters: a know it all cabbie, a matriarch madam, a drug boss and we learn everything we need to know about the sex and narcotics trade. As the search goes on I had no idea where things were going and if Sigal would ever be found but the suspense is in the uncertainty of no knowing…..and this is very well-done. The added flavour is the exotic locale which Dotan navigates and brings him to dead end bars, addicts with no way out and every form of crime. Things did not stop there, Dotan also goes to place where he has to confront the ghosts of the past…

This is an easy and fast read that delivers suspense cover to cover.

“Passport to Death” is Dotan second mission his first can be read in “ Death in Shangri-La”

"The River Girls", by Melinda Woodhall

The River Girls - Melinda Woodhall

Mercy Harbor Thriller book #1

Who’s killing the girls of Willow Bay?

Eden Winthrop, the key player, runs “Mercy”, a shelter for abuse women in honor of her sister whose life was taken prematurely. She has been blaming herself ever since her sister died for not protecting her. So when a troubled teen showed up at the shelter, then disappeared she made it her mission to find her……But when a friend of the teen turned up dead in the Willow River the search turned out to be another ball game……

It opens with a murder in progress. The killer think he is saving his victims from sex and drug trafficking and from police corruption. There on we have more murders, lots of violence, domestic abuse and an investigation that uncovers that the latest Willow River killing is linked to two cold cases murders and the twisted motive of a serial killer.

This is definitely a page-turner and a real nail biter of a thriller. Intense and emotion packed from the opening and never let go. We have lots of twists and turns to keep us on our toes and as it smoothly progresses to its conclusion it is hard to pin point the whodunit till reaching the few last chapters. The main character is a mess and plays her part beautifully as a woman who suffers from PTSD. We have other interesting characters such as the Detective who is in charge of the cases and the lawyer who had defended Eden sister’s killer plays a very important role… it doesn’t stop there we also have seedy characters and violent pimp with his sidekick there helping to move this captivating thriller along.

What a great job the author did with the presentation, the narration, the dialogue, of course the plot and the entertaining characters. Well done.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

"The Anunnaki Purse", by Gerald J. Kubicki

"The Anunnaki Purse" - Gerald J. Kubicki
Book # 32 in the Colton Banyon Mystery

Mr.Kuckicki has created an exciting mystery blended with some Sumerian mythology and has topped it all with some fantasy. What I like the best about this series is although fictional we always learn something of history all said in an entertaining way. This latest is based on the Anunnaki, ancient Sumerian gods whose primary function was decree the fates of humanity. Some believed them to be extraterrestrial.

It has been a long time between novels and I missed reading Colton exploits. “The Anunnaki Purse” is divided in Fourteen parts and starts a long time ago “A Very Ancient Times” with the ruler of Nibiru looking down on a planet in trouble, then the story progresses to “Ancient Time on Earth” and to the “Present Day”. There is a lot going on, first the Annunaki purse is found then is stolen and then the hunt is on to retrieve it. Colton takes a long time to show up but finally does with his team in Part three chapter Fourteen. But once in, his contribution to the story is what makes this thrilling adventure intercepted with fantasy a very pleasant read.

The prize:

Why is the purse so valuable? What magic does it hold? Why is it so sought after? Why would so many kill to get hold of it? We find all answers along the way…..

The Characters:

So many players to entertain us: Egyptians, North Koreans and Americans, good people, bad people and the Anunnaki… all parts played are graphic and visual. Most of all, Colton and the members of the Forever Ours team are always ready for a challenge and of course there to save the day….They are a great group of super heroes…..

The plot:

The story provides one surprise after the other. I won’t spoil your enjoyment by revealing too many secrets. But be ready to travel from one side of the world to another and even take a step or two into the unknown. …and be spooked along the way….

More thoughts:

This is an easy and fast read: small chapters, clean language and a captivating storyline. The characters are well-drawn even the Anunnaki are characterized to leave an impression and they do…..

A special mention taken from the author’s notes

“We don’t know when the Anunnaki appeared, but the first written evidence of them appeared in tablets around 2,500 B.C. We likewise don’t know when they disappeared.”
 
 
 

 

"Cell 8", by Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström

Cell 8 - Anders Roslund, Börge Hellström
Grens & Sundkvist book # 3

This is one provocative reading experience that pushes a point of view that is quite controversial: those who advocate capital punishment. Death-row and the conflicting desires for justice and retribution is the premise in this multilayered plot. Detective Superintendent Ewert Grens will deal with this.

It opens in a US prison with 17 year old John Meyer Frey on death row for a murder he says he did not commit. While on the other side of the world in Sweden, John Schwartz is remanded to jail after assaulting another man….But it turns out that Frey and Schwartz are one and the same…..How this came to be discovered comprise much of the story.

The mesmerising crime narrative will grab you by the throat and never let go. This is one concocted and devious plot that is hard to put down. It is said with flashbacks to the past to provide answers and the manipulations so masterfully told that I was caught off guard, extremely intrigued by the direction the plot was going and even more how it would end. Although I was frantically turning pages hoping for a positive outcome I was off base so many times that I gave up trying. Not being able to predict what would happen is what made reading this mystery all the more enjoyable. I didn’t see the twist at the end coming.

This story is not without Grens’ eccentricities, he is a special character whose bizarre attitude is what makes him different. I like him he is so entertaining with is rock and roll music and dancing to the tune….in his office. Other good players add colour and atmosphere to this absolutely original story.
 
 

 

"Fatal Greed", John W. Mefford

Fatal Greed - John W. Mefford

Greed book #1

Something fishy is going on with this deal …does anyone knows the true intent of a corporate takeover? When a technology giant swallows up a private company for one the thought of layoffs comes to mind.

Michael Doyle a mid-level management is sure that he and many of his friends will lose their jobs when the top brass announces they have sold out to an international conglomerate. But his self-pity is cut short when he discovers the dismembered body of a co-worker, this gruesome murder gave him purpose to investigate the whodunit and the why.

This a deeply compelling crime drama that chronicles the live of Michael who finds himself on the corporate’s chopping blocks. The plot has a bit of everything: suspense, mystery, adventure, sex, love, corporate power, personal needs, murder, backstabbing, mischief, etc. and is masterfully created to hold our attention throughout. It mainly centers around a corporate sale and on the level of greed necessary to satisfy each personal goal. The author paints a bleak picture with a realistic touch of what could happen to anyone these days.

Lots of suspense builds up while trying to find who is behind the gruesome murder. This fast-paces edge of your seat mystery held my attention captive from page one till I reach the conclusion. I simply couldn’t put the book down and read it in two settings. Another well- written story played out by great characters.

Smooth style, easy to read and a unique storyline, what is not to like.

"The Preserve", by Steve Anderson

"the Preserve" - Steve Anderson

Set in the U.S territory of Hawaii. 1948. “The Preserve” is based on some true events, includes real-life characters and offers a meaningful take on the dark side of American power in the postwar era. Reading this novel you should be willing to face some grim truths.

This is the sequel to “Under False Flags” which I haven’t read and I surely missed out not having done so. It would have been an asset to have read it in order to better understand where the main character, Wendell Lett, came from and why he ended up in Hawaii. Although the author does make mention of his past he did not elaborate. So now I am curious to read Wendell’s mission in Europe.

According to Mr. Anderson his story is entirely fictional. But it wouldn’t be surprising if a camp like the preserve did exist with its classified psychological drug programs, its clandestine rogue operations, and a place where plots against major figures are made including assassination. “The Preserve” and Wendell Lett brings us deep into the heart of what could have been…..In “The Preserve”, Wendell desperately seeks a cure for his severe combat trauma, he thinks he is in wright place for his salvation…or is he?.... he is not alone…

Seeking a new beginning is Kanani Alana who became a close friend to Wendell. This tough-minded Hawaiian who speaks Hawaiian Pidgin English added local colour to the narrative and a sense of place. Her language is smoothly incorporated and is not overly done. The author has a strong way with prose, slow, pausing at times to let us savour his tale.

Wendell and Kanani although are the main characters they do not play in this drama by themselves. There is a huge cast of characters that crosses their paths. Some names are known such as General Douglas MacArthur and the nefarious US intelligence operative Ed Lansdale and others less familiar but nonetheless important players.

It is not without suspense. When Wendell discovers the true intentions behind the camp, he and Kanani plan a dangerous escape. But can they survive the harsh wilderness of the Big Island?....Their escape is slow moving but what a nail-biting drama we follow. Well-done, it is hard not to root for their success.

Included in this captivating story, is the search for the missing Imperial Japanese fortune that had been plundered throughout Asia during the war. The author also mentioned that with the U.S. military ruling the territory the Hawaiians culture and ways of life changed for ever.

“The Preserve” is an exciting fiction written with elegance.

"River of Lies", R.M. Greenaway

River of Lies - R. M. Greenaway

B.C. Blues Crime # 5

Ms. Greenaway has created another excellent story in rain drenched Vancouver for our enjoyment. It is preferable to follow this series in sequence otherwise you will definitely feel something is missing. Although, do not hesitate if you did to start the series here, each book has its own excellent mystery that would captivated you.

The plot is a complicated one and is cleverly thought of to give us an irresistible puzzle filled with cunning twists and a gripping police procedural. Two excellent cases that had my full attention from start to finish: one of a young woman who was left to die in a school parking lot, the case was taken over by Constable JD Temple while the second had Constables Dave Leith and Cal Dion concentrating on the mysterious disappearance of a toddler during a dinner party. In their chases to get to the bottom the detectives found many links between a tragic drowning, a violent assault and an apparent suicide that crisscrossed their paths and helped them to reach a conclusion and close their investigations.

Ms. Greenaway pens a multilayered mystery that is interesting and captivating but you have to forget about car chases, gun fights and Kung-Fu action, this mystery keeps a steady tempo rather slow moving till the end. Things may not move fast but the words are so vividly said you have time to imagine what is going on and create a colourful scenario in your mind. At best is the strong narrative all through that gives strengths to the investigations and inevitably holds us captivated, glued to every word from start to finish. Great characterisation to boot.

I received this ARC from Dundum Press via NetGalleys for my thoughts.

"Phantom", by Jo Nesbo

Phantom - Don Bartlett, Jo Nesbo, Jo Nesbo

Harry Hole book #9

Jo Nesbo certainly can do plots but I found “The Phantom” to be less outlandish than some of his previous Hole novels. It is a story very hard to follow.

“Violin” is the new synthetic drug: potent and plays havoc with Oslo’s population and its distribution is controlled by a Russian gangster “Dubai” a shadowy figure who lurks behind all the action in Phantom. Of course the drug syndicate wants Oleg dead and that gives Hole license to pursue.

What a strange way to open your story: a chapter narrated by a rat? Fortunately the story unfolds through two perspectives: a conventional third-person narrative that follows Hole on his journey, interspersed with first-person memories and observations from the drug dealer.

The development rambles a lot and I found it to be a very complicated story with lots of plot threads that doesn’t seem true. This is one story that is woefully overwritten. I was consistently lost as to what and who I was supposed to be paying attention to. Unlike “Snowman” and “Leopard” it felt stale and by far less interesting. It’s also a bit slow-paced. “Phantom” took a long time to build up before anything of note happened. The second half of the book is far better structured with all the requisite twists and turns and with endless action and violence. But the good parts came too late to be an enjoyable read. This story is so hard to follow that I wanted to drop it many times….. But I stuck with it and read it to the end….I knew I needed to do so in order to have a smooth intro to the following novel.

Some stories are better than others…..this one is not my preferred.

"Phantom", by Jo Nesbo

Phantom - Don Bartlett, Jo Nesbo, Jo Nesbo

Harry Hole book #9

Jo Nesbo certainly can do plots but I found “The Phantom” to be less outlandish than some of his previous Hole novels. It is a story very hard to follow.

“Violin” is the new synthetic drug: potent and plays havoc with Oslo’s population and its distribution is controlled by a Russian gangster “Dubai” a shadowy figure who lurks behind all the action in Phantom. Of course the drug syndicate wants Oleg dead and that gives Hole license to pursue.

What a strange way to open your story: a chapter narrated by a rat? Fortunately the story unfolds through two perspectives: a conventional third-person narrative that follows Hole on his journey, interspersed with first-person memories and observations from the drug dealer.

The development rambles a lot and I found it to be a very complicated story with lots of plot threads that doesn’t seem true. This is one story that is woefully overwritten. I was consistently lost as to what and who I was supposed to be paying attention to. Unlike “Snowman” and “Leopard” it felt stale and by far less interesting. It’s also a bit slow-paced. “Phantom” took a long time to build up before anything of note happened. The second half of the book is far better structured with all the requisite twists and turns and with endless action and violence. But the good parts came too late to be an enjoyable read. This story is so hard to follow that I wanted to drop it many times….. But I stuck with it and read it to the end….I knew I needed to do so in order to have a smooth intro to the following novel.

Some stories are better than others…..this one is not my preferred.

"Be Careful What You Wish For", by Jeffrey Archer

Be Careful What You Wish For - Jeffrey Archer

The Clifton Chronicles book #4

The fourth novel in the Clifton Chronicles series picks up minutes where the “Best Kept Secret” left. Set in England and spanning the years 1957-1964 we follow the Clifton-Barrington family saga in their face off with Don Pedro Martinez, a smuggler who became a staunch enemy in the preceding book and is hell-bent to destroying them.

You definitely need to read the three first books before you get to this one. We do not have many details and the characters’ background to have a complete idea of what the Clifton Chronicles are about. (It would be a big miss on your part). Mr. Archer weaves an “unputdownable” story with the use of such simplest possible words. He is so easy to read, I wanted to keep reading just to find out what was happening to the Cliftons and the Barringtons and in what kind of troubles they managed to get into this time (the best part in my books). The story contains thrilling surprises page after page and is plotted with skills to play a cat-and mouse game with us. The tension and the built-up are terrific and have kept me on the edge of my seat.

No family saga is without a villain, this book has a good one, a well-drawn and believable character. While telling this tale, Mr. Archer's characters, even in the midst of blazing run-ins maintain their British elegance and dry sense of humour. What a treat to read.

Being a marvelous storyteller and a tease that he is, has managed to leave the story with an excellent cliff-hanger that constrains us to get the following installment (I already have it).

“Be Careful What You Wish For” is thoroughly engaging.

"The Princeling of Nanjing' , by Ian Hamilton

The Princeling of Nanjing: The Triad Years - Ian Hamilton

Book #8 in the Ava Lee series

It is a sheer pleasure to read Ava Lee’s globe –trotting experiences. Each story is fresh. Although I know what to expect Mr. Hamilton throws enough curveballs to keep me curious and engaged. This latest follows “The King of Shanghai” where Ava embarked on a business partnership, The Three Sisters investment firm.

The “The Princeling of Nanjing” begins with a fashion show to launch the Po line of designer clothes. Before she can cherish her success, Ava is visited by Xu, who has a very serious problem. Xu is in trouble with a corrupt political dynasty and needs Ava’s help in the hope of finding something that can take the pressure off…. Ava and Xu had developed a relationship and a mutual trust in the last book.

It took me a few pages to get back into the groove and recall where I had left off but after a short time I was completely swept up in the story and enjoyed spending time with Ava as she navigates her world. In this episode we are treated to a lovely blueprint of how corruption might work in China. What I missed the most is we have little exhibition of lethal type Chinese martial arts that Ava often uses to put her words across, there are some subtle moves when she takes on two thugs sent to kidnap her but not what we usual see. The story moves along slowly and has many personal moments. Something is definitely brewing between Ava and Xu, seems we may have a growing affection here. Hopefully we will see how far this unexplored sexual attachment goes. It surely added piquancy to this story after all Ava is not into men…. What make this series delightful are the details Mr. Hamilton describes for the most exquisite meals, the customs and manners experienced whether you are in a high end or a hotpot restaurant. ….he compares a dish to a picture, a sport game, a musical performance and gives it personality…. I dare you not to smack your lips and savour along with the characters…. :) Some may find a wee bit too much description of food and too much traveling on unfamiliar roads in this book, I did at times. Ava is one smart, sassy, Toronto-based forensic accountant.

“The Princeling of Nanjing” is a thrill of a read that is hard to put down.

"Cilka's Journey", by Heather Morris

"Cilka's Journey" - Heather Morris

The Tattooist of Auschwitz book #2

This novel proclaims to be based on a true love story. Cilka whose real name is Cecilia Kovacoca was 16 in 1942 when she entered Auschwitz and was forced to become the commandant’s sex slave. On liberation, still only 19, she was charged as a collaborator by the Russians and sent to the Siberian gulags. In her new prison Cilka faced new and familiar challenges and confronted terror and death daily. She also found love. 

“Cilka’s Journey” is based on research woven into a fictionalized story. The author states this is not a biography or an authoritative record of historical events but simply traces her heartbreaking journey through hell. The account particularly centers on the treatment of women in Vorkuta Gulag and the maltreatment and violence the men also had to endure. Brutality, rape and undernourishment were the ways of everyday life. Daily, force labor and the extreme cold awaited them to succumb.

Although this is the second novel in the series, “Cilka’s Journey” can easily work as a standalone. Throughout we have flashbacks skillfully weaved in spanning from 1939-1945 giving us enough background about Cilka’s past and also filling the gaps for those who have not read book #1. 

Since I read very few books about the Russian Gulags I much appreciated the notes from Heather Morris and additional history on Vorkuta in the afterword by Owen Matthews. These chapters at the end of the book clarify what is factual to what was enhanced to suit the author’s narrative in order to make a most captivating story. 

Thousands of prisoners were interned for all kinds of reasons and thousands died in the Gulags during the time Stalin was in power. After his death and a power struggle Khrushchev emerged victorious and denounced Stalin’s purges and ushered a less repressive regime, thousands of prisoners were pardon and sent free, Cilka’s and the man she had fallen in love with were among them.

I did not find this novel to have a depressing story but rather one that showcase resilience and hope. This is a well-written, well researched story hard to put down. 

I receive this ARC from the publisher St-Martin’s Press via NetGalleys for my thoughts.

"Beyond The Moon", by Catherine Taylor

Beyond The Moon - Catherine   Taylor

This debut novel is a poignant and stirring love story that brings together Lt Robert Lovett, a talented artist and British World War 1 hero and Louisa Casson, a young woman living in modern day England. 

An historical fiction with time travel mix with a love story is not what I usual love to read. The synopsis sounded interesting so I gave it a go and I was not disappointed. This story is nicely written and shifts between 1917 with Robert fighting the war and 2017 with Louisa in a psychiatric hospital trying to maintain her sanity while she travels back in time to 1917 as a VAD nurse in France and back to the future in the insanity ward. The chapters weave between the two periods as they tell the wartime love story. At first, Louise passage to and from the past is inconsistent but mid-way when her stay in the past seems permanent, the story takes off and we have hope that the love birds may reconnect….awe. 

The horrors of war are excellently captured with all the gore, the fear, starvation, filth, trench foot, putrid body parts, exposure to the elements, the medical treatments, etc. These war vignettes enable us to better understand the feelings experienced. Although the story is mostly set during the horrific reality of the war it also includes details on treatment of mental illnesses today. 

Time travel, each book has its own way to get to the other side of time. In “Beyond the Moon” the author has given us the illusion that just opening a door will do the trick. It did for Louisa.

Putting aside that the pacing drags in places and it takes way too long before the characters come together this fantasy said with total lack of fuss is a joy to read. What an original way to tell a story….

I received this review copy via Booksirens for my thoughts

"At Every Turn", by John W. Mefford

AT Every Turn (An Alex Troutt Thriller, Book 10) (Redemption Thriller Series 22)  - John W. Mefford

Alex Trout Thriller, book #10

Redemption Thriller, book #22

Mr. Mefford’s stories never disappoint, he creates nail-biting scenarios which keeps us guessing from the opening pages and does not let go till we reach the closing chapter. Following Alex and her team to the crime scenes and through the evidences you feel as you are part of the investigation along with them. 

In a few words:

“A serial killer dubbed the Rose killer is on the loose. The killer leaves a rose at the crime scene. There are similarities to the murders occurring across the nation. Is it the actions of the same killer or is there a copycat? Alex needs to find the killer before he strikes again….meanwhile on the Homefront things are falling apart….”

Further thoughts:

Stirring, gripping, “At Every Turn” is an edge of your seat, fast-paced and well written drama very hard to put down and one that leaves something in the air for next time….of course all played out by a cast of well-defined characters. Two suspenseful threads: one an exciting investigation and the other a suspenseful family saga.

I join the readers in saying: this is a “didn’t see that coming” thriller. What a great addition to the series. Well-done.