Toni

The way I see it

"The Butcher's Daughter", by Mark M. McMillin

The Butcher's Daughter - Mark M. McMillin

The Queen’s Privateer #1

“A-hoy”

Based on true historical events, this is an epic story and a swashbuckling adventure of a young girl who grew up to be an influential 16th century seafarer. This tale is filled with gripping scene of murder, sea battles, sex, piracy, treasure galore and a lot of pirate lingo.

“Avast Ye” 

This story is certainly an attention grabber. It starts with Mary, the heroine, discussing her father’s murder then the narration moves along for more than half the book recounting her life on the high sea till she was captured. I would say, this story fits different genres: it is a bit romantic, has strong adventure with pirates and smugglers, is quite educative in some ways with maritime language but most of all it will appeal to those who has a sense of adventure and are passionate for a plot full of thrilling action and love to be plunged into intense drama.

“Man-O-War”

Recreating life in the “wild west” days of the West Indies is very well done and most captivating. Mary managed to command ships and with her loyal crew has prowled the Caribbean and prospered in the New World. ….the joy of open sea….This is definitely a delicious spin to the old boys club of male captains….Mr. Mc Millan pulls no punches, the story flows with period of tensions intercepted with peaceful interludes where I was able to regain my breath. This book is very well- done. For those seeking the history behind this fiction Mr. McMillin has included relevant odds and ends of historical facts in the last pages.

“Hearties”

The cast of lively characters includes a cameo appearance by an historic figure, Queen Elizabeth 1. The protagonist Captain Mary is human and credible as well as original. The men are authentic and passionate, their life was cheap but their courage was golden….. 

ARRR!

Transport yourself back to the 16th century and you will find this novel to be a very entertaining and captivating read. 

"The Black Mile", by Mark Dawson

The Black Mile - Mark  Dawson

Book #1, Soho Noir series

This is a good mystery that transports us back to the dark streets of London during the time Nazi were bombing the East End. For those not familiar with the lingo this story may be challenging “The Black Mile” uses a lot of period slang to add the feel of the time. 

The story is told from three perspectives: police officers, brothers Frank and Charlie Murphy and newspaper reporter Henry Drake. All three are looking for “The Blackout Ripper” a serial killer murdering prostitutes in the seedy side of London. The setting during the Blitz is recreated very well as well as the atmosphere during that time: Freemason influence at the forefront, police corruption, brother’s feuds, ripper murders, journalists making up stories and the usual scandals. The plot moves quite fast with plenty of twists and turns to derail us and keep us interested. Seemed the real life Jack the Ripper was the inspiration behind this novel but Mr. Dawson did his thing and shown us he is a true master of suspense giving us just enough to pique out attention then leaving us hanging wanting to find out the next move. Although some parts are quite graphic it is nevertheless a gripping story with all the violence, sexual references, description of autopsies and many more gruesome descriptions we expect in such a mystery. “The Black Mile” is a roller-coaster ride of a novel and a page turner.

It may take a while the get a handle on the various characters but as the story moves on and we are able to place them we are into a story that flows smoothly and grabs all our attention. Unfortunately, by the end all threads do not tie down neatly leaving the door open for a sequence. Since this books was first out in 2012, of course by now there is one for us to grab…. Next on my TBR list: ”The Imposter”.

"The Secret Life of Mac", by Melinda Metz

"The Secret Life of Mac" - Melinda Metz

This is a charming little story of MacGyver a tabby who is a kleptomaniac and loves a good challenge by playing matchmaker….he thinks humans are hopeless when it comes to romance and crazy for not following their instincts.

Mac is simply a loveable kitty and is definitely the star in the fiction. We meet him from the start where he lives with his humans and a bonehead of a dog named Diogee. Mac’s owners are on their honeymoon and is left in the care of Briony, a cousin now house/pet-sitter. Briony just left her fiancé at the alter and Mac sense her sadness so he springs into action, back to his old tricks and sets her up with Nate, owner of a retirement home…..awe……

We have a cute romance and a little mystery going on: someone is trying to sabotage the retirement home and Nate has to find out who is doing it and why…. … no more pussyfooting for Mac he is out for the kill….and a little matchmaking….

Where this story excels is in the descriptive writing. Through MacGyver’s eyes the author’s expresses clearly his point of view. His voice is clear and loud, he is simply an adorable feline. Most of the story tells how the two main characters see their lives with tid-bits of Mac’s manoeuvers inserted here and there. The best part is definitely MacGyver no doubt in my mind. The human players main and secondary are good and well defined but Mac is my hero…:)

If you like cats and know how they think you will enjoy “The Secret of Mac” it will hit all those soft spots. This book is such a delightful read…Enjoy.

I received this review copy from the publisher Kensington Books via NetGalleys for my thoughts

"The Sky Above Us", by Sarah Sundin

The Sky Above us - Sarah Sundin

Book#2, Sunrise at Normandy

This historical romance is sweet tale set at a time when ordinary men had to do extraordinary things, and when women first explored non- traditional roles. 

“The Sky Above Us” is a heart melting adventure history-filled second to “The Sea Before Us” where three brothers have their say. This time Lt. Adler Paxton takes center stage and we follow him while he is in England with the US 357th Fighter Group to battle the German Luftwaffe in 1943.

This story is also of Violet Lindstrom who serves in the American Red Cross where she arranges entertainment for the troops at the Aeroclub. Both are numbed by grief and harboring shameful secrets…..no need to expand you well know what comes next….

This story although has its suspenseful moments it did not quite resonate and I felt it dragged way too much. Adler is portrayed as the typical fly-boy who seeks forgiveness to become a better person and as the story moves on he of course with the help of Violet reaches peace of mind. Violet on her side is in charge of entertainment and we follow her on her day to day life entertaining kids and the troop while patiently waiting for Adler safe return to base.

Well done is the dog-fight over the skies of Normandy to clear a way for bombers and how Adler became an ACE. What particularly excels is how the story captures the turmoil and struggles of the time and the inner battles the two main characters face each day.

The author definitely did a lot of research and has provided a lot of details about flying planes and some military aspects of war. We also find a lot of spiritual aspects, biblical quotations and prayers throughout this story. Men prayed for their safe return home and women for their men to come back in one piece. This story is definitely a military romance with all the Christian elements we can have…

Received this ARC from the publisher Revell via the first reviewer program for my thoughts

"The Birds That Stay", by Ann Lambert

"The Birds That Stay" - Ann Lambert

This complex novel spins a beautifully laid out mystery set in the heart of the Laurentian Mountains where its inhabitants will play out a collection of events that shaped their lives. Each player reveals memories recalling how life was growing up. While the enigmatic Chief Inspector Romeo Leduc reluctantly answers the call when a reclusive older woman is found strangled in her home….seems the investigation will weave the sins of the past with today’s devastating consequences.

Ms. Lambert’s words clearly resonated not only did I picture vividly the scenery I also reminisced with her characters. Being a Montrealer I enjoy Canadian authors who set their stories near or in my home town and uses the patois and expressions of most of us French Quebecer do. The author does a magnificent job in doing so. It actually made me smile….yes, we really do speak this way….The mystery in itself is very slow in development a bit too slow for my taste but the complexity and the array of fascinating characters made up for it. Yes, it may be slow but no less has gripping tension to keep us glued to every word till the very end. Do not look for great police procedural this story dives more into the background and motivations of its players than anything else. The streets of Montreal 1970, the beautiful Laurentians (not so much today it is-30C) and Hungary 1944 revisited…..and lots more ……well-done.

I received this Arc from the publisher Second Story Press via Netgalleys

"The Peace Killers", by Ty Patterson

"The Peace Killers" - Ty Patterson

Zeb Carter # 2

This is another riveting story hard to put down. Mr. Patterson is at the top of his game and has provided once more a fast paced, exciting adventure played out by his most loveable although deadly characters: Zeb and the twin sisters Beth and Meghan. No worries, this second book can be read on its own merits. 

The plot is as current as today’s news: a plan for peace between Israel and Palestine. In this exciting suspense, Israel is on the brink of war when Mossad is accused of murdering Palestinian peace negotiators. Zeb Carter will go to any means to find out who was behind the attack even if all hell breaks loose in doing so…of course it will…and following Zeb is a roller coaster ride from start to finish. I am a huge fan of this author and love how graphic his stories are, I could visualize each scene as clearly as if I was seeing it on the big screen. The action is very suspenseful and I was kept on the edge of my seat following everything and hoping Zeb and the twins will do their magic. In “The Peace Killers”, not only we have terrific protagonists but we also have a huge cast of equally intelligent and capable good and bad characters. Stay alert, concentration is needed to keep track of the comings and goings but it is well worth it.

I join those who say that Mr. Patterson’s books are always relevant and address today’s issues….well-done as always.

This series is a spin off to the Warriors thrillers series 

"The Things We Cannot Say", Kelly Rimmer

"The Things We Cannot say" - Kelly Rimmer

This is an historical romance at its finest. The story centers on Alina Dziak, a young Polish girl, who had to navigate through life during the occupation of her country during WW11. “The Things We Cannot Say” is a heart wrenching, terrifying and enlightening.

The storyline although romantic seemed closed to historical accuracy. It is told in two movements with two narratives in alternating chapters: Alina’s recounts her life and events she lived through during the war and Alice’s, Alina’s grand-daughter, present day voice recounts her day to day life and her trip to Poland to see what became of those cherished by Alina.

Much of this book is based on the romance between Alina and her boyfriend Tomasz. It is a bit mushy but I was in the right mind set for this kind of story so I really loved it. For those who read a lot the war time period will see the events developed long before it was written but Ms. Rimmer gave it her own spin and has provided powerful timelines that smoothly came together to conclude this sad but lovely story. By the end of the book I had my box of tissues near me….

It is a wonderful read, with its awesome twists that came from time to time to keep the tension on, making this book hard to put down. I couldn’t swap the pages fast enough to see where the drama would lead. Indeed I wasn’t disappointed in roller coaster story, so captivated by the level of turmoil in both stories and how that impacted the families that I stayed glues to every word…”The Things We cannot Say” also showcases the lengths one will go for those we love. Ms. Rimmer’s has an undeniable talent to draw believable and captivating players and to place them in roles true to character. Well-done.

My thanks to the Publisher Graydon House and Netgalleys for the ARC

"We All Fall Down", by Daniel Kalla

We All Fall Down - Daniel Kalla

“We All Fall Down” is a thought-provoking book which looks squarely at a cataclysm of unimaginable proportions. The Black Death has arrived in Italy and the story will tell us how people will react to the catastrophe. Will Dr. Alana Vaugh, an infectious diseases expert with NATO find the source in time to save the world?

Daniel Kalla who practices emergency medicine in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada has once again written an absolutely riveting drama hard to put down. Very knowledgeable in the subject, his words plunges his readers’ right in the middle of the crises where experts are on the hunt to track down Patient Zero. Their search brings them across an 800 year monastery and a medieval journal that may be key to understanding and solving the outbreak.

This 10th novel that combines suspense with a historical mystery is told in alternating chapters drawing us back to the Middle Ages where the initial outbreak took place then we are smoothly taken forward to today’s crises where NATO, WHO and local representatives need to find a solution. Mr. Kalla demonstrates a masterful skill needed for genuine suspense by capitalizing and building on the danger of exposure and the panic ensuing. The writing shines with medical and scientific expertise. 

No person is left unscathed, no family untouched. Death grows insatiable……this is scary to think, could biological terrorism really happen, how fast can viruses spread and how safe are we?
Mr. Kalla is one of my favourite authors and I wouldn’t miss any of his books. I read them all….This latest is a well-done nail biting thriller…. 

I received this ARC from the publisher Simon Schuster via NetGalleys for me thoughts.

"No Time for Goodbye", by Lindwood Barclay

No Time for Goodbye - Linwood Barclay

No Time for Goodbye, Book #1

This very suspenseful story revolves around the unexplained overnight disappearance of a teenage girl’s family. It open 25 years later with Cynthia Biggs, the long abandoned daughter still looking to solve the mystery in her life.

The book’s raison d’être is to disclose the mystery behind the disappearance and eventually solving the case. Mr. Barclay makes time for meticulous plotting, chapters are overflowing with details and no clue is left behind explanations. The narrator is Cynthia’s husband, Terry, who tries his best to cope with Cynthia’s tension went she is pushed over the edge after appearing on a TV show. She keeps on seeing things such as a recurring automobile, a stranger that looks like her brother, her father’s hat suddenly placed on the kitchen table. 

It may be a cliché to say that this novel is hard to put down, so true for me. This story has a great premise and a cast of people trapped in a terrifying situation. “No Time for Goodbye” has a large cast of characters, both past and present who plays parts in Cynthia’s life. I will spare you the details. Revealing too much will spoil both the journey of Terry has endured as well as the story’s conclusion.

This is one of those stories that kept me hooked from the beginning till the end. The development of the characters is so well-done I really felt for them. I love the way the plot sawed back and forth: Terry wracked with doubt questioning his wife sanity then rallying to her side. The language is relevant and reflects what the characters are not afraid to say. Some would say this novel has an adult theme for that reason.

This contemporary novel is fast paced and has the right amount of tension to deliver a neat and unexpected twist that makes this novel all worthwhile.

"At Dusk", by John W. Mefford

AT Dusk (An Alex Troutt Thriller, Book 5) - John W. Mefford
Book #5, in the Redemption Thriller series

Book #5, in the Alex Troutt series

This is another great addition to the series and a must read book if you are into a thriller that features a kick ass female FBI agent. Alex is a very tenacious individual at work and in her private life, a loving and caring single mother with friends she deeply loves, not putting aside that she also has a one of those dry sense of humour. Yes, you can start at this point but I would recommend reading this series in sequence. 

This is not a chick-lit with mushy romance but rather a dark story filled with action with many twists to keep us on our toes. In “At Dusk”, we have a sociopath on the loose terrorizing many in the Boston area. The action starts with Alex on the job investigating the murder of a woman who suffered the similar injuries to a 10 year old case the FBI has in file. Before things get out of hands and there are more victims…Alex needs to get to the bottom fast and get her man (woman). The story takes us in the mind of a serial killer while he hunts for his next catch….and in the head of Alex wanting to catch a predator at any cost. This scenario is played out by a strong cast of good and evil characters and is told from alternating perspectives including flashbacks. Mr. Mefford introduces these chapters smoothly and at the right time. We have a suspenseful and well-written storyline hard to put down. Meanwhile the saga continues on Alex’s home front….What a way to keep the series fresh and exciting…..the sequel “At Last” will bring a new chapter…..

The story is not taxing and is enjoyable to read, the language is clean and we are into a smooth sailing plot till the very last page… 
 
 

 

"Washington Black", by Esi Edugyan

Washington Black - Esi Edugyan

This is both a gripping and ingenious tale that has all the elements of a 19th century adventure.” Washington Black” depicts slavery — unsparingly — but it’s about freedom. The narrative focuses on its main character, Washington Black, who tells his own story.

In 1830, 11 year old Washington Black is a slave on a Barbados sugar plantation and is watched over by an older woman named Big Kit. His master is shockingly cruel till one day the master’s brother comes for a visit. Wash’s life is changed for ever when eccentric Titch who is devoting himself to science takes Wash under his wings….a partnership, of sorts, is born.

As in her previous novels, the themes of genius and betrayal are revisited but in “Washington Black” this is far more complicated. The relationship between Wash and this white scientist and abolition advocate is complex. When Titch sends Wash across the globe on a journey mythic in scope….Ms. Edugyan transforms her story from horrors into a lush and exhilarating travelogue full of improbable events. 

This plot is aptly written within the constraint of the time period. The narrator is articulate, precise to the point of fussiness. The tone is melancholic and emotional. This is one adventure powered by the helium of fantasy…..quite unconventional. 

No doubts that Esi Edudyan being the Winner of the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize has penned a polished story filled with imagery but I was quite disappointed by its conclusion….

"Fate", by Ian Hamilton

"Fate" - Ian  Hamilton

Uncle Chow Tung book #1

This new series takes us back in time when Chow Tung left China for Hong Kong as a nobody and became the Dragon Head of the Fanling Triad after the death of their master. 

If you haven’t read the Eva Lee series by this author you may wonder why is he giving us this story but if you are a fan you will appreciate knowing where Uncle had his roots and how he became such a revered leader who played an important role till his death in “The Eva Lee Mysteries” series. This new series is an excellent spin off.

Mr. Hamilton seems to know quite a lot about the Triad’s hierarchy and how its structure works. In a spin of his own the mystery brings to life the struggle to replace the Mountain Master after he was killed in a traffic accident. Normally the Deputy is the next in line but others have someone and other things in mind….

After a short introduction we are fast plunged into the action and it doesn’t take long before knowing that Chow known as Uncle is the lead that could fend off the threats and unite the membership…..By the end Uncle is elected Dragon Head…..The mystery is slow moving even with the threatening moves from the other gangs but Mr. Hamilton knows how to pull us in drop by drop into an exciting saga that will make you flip pages till the very end. 

As always, the story is well presented, the smooth narration is intercepted by strong dialogues. The characterization is excellent and I love how each one played their roles in such an entertaining manner. No doubts I am a huge fan of this author.

I received this ARC from the publisher House of Anansi via NetGalleys for my thoughts.

"The Homecoming", by Andrew Pyper

"The Homecoming" - Andrew Pyper

“The Homecoming”, is a gripping psychological mystery and quite an intriguing puzzle that unravels before our eyes. 

This is a weird story and a scary one indeed. It recounts how with their mother the Quinlans’ siblings are asked to travel to a vast remote property to hear the reading of their father’s will. There is one condition: to inherit the fortune they must stay at the estate for one month without contact with the outside world. They soon find out that the people they knew all your life have suddenly become strangers.

The 2/3 of the book reminded me of Agatha Christie’s story where she plunges people in the middle of nowhere and kills them one by one. But what differences Mr. Pype’s macabre story from those written by Ms. Christie: we do not have an equivalent of a Ms. Maple nor an Inspector Poirot to save the day. Instead we have sightings, strange happenings, lots of blood and very scary moments for the characters to endure. 

This is an original horror scenario with a straightforward prose with a focus on plot and dialogue. Gripping in most part especially when the family discovers that each member has more secrets that they ever imagined and fear settles in…. This family drama turns out to be a chilling dystopian nightmare. 

Mr. Pyper is a gifted storyteller with a penchant for the super creepy. He has once again concocted a darkly entrancing tale and has filled it with outstanding players. 

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

"Seven Days", by Patrick Senécal

Seven days - Patrick Senécal
Original title: “Sept Jours du Talion” 

This new acquisition by Simon & Schuster was recently translated into English the original French version came out in 2002 and in 2010 was adapted for cinema by Podz. Why I am mentioning this? Simple… I have a soft spot for Canadian authors and even more for those living in my Province (Québec) and near my city. I haven’t read any books from Mr. Senécal before and I am grateful for the publisher as well as Netgalleys for introducing me to a wonderful writer. Thank you for the ARC.

Stephen King may be the king of horror in the USA but in Québec Patrick Senécal is the local master of horror and has had the opportunity on many occasions to prove that he had earned his nobility. It is great time that the English audience have a chance to read his novels. Mr. Senécal has won my heart and is now on my watch list. 

A warning: this story is extremely graphic and not for the faint of heart.

In a few words:

“Seven Days" tells the story of the kidnapping and torture of a sexual predator by the father of one of his victims. It also follows the police investigation to bring the criminal to justice which also raises several ethical questions, especially since the father's gesture is applauded by the public. 

This story is about revenge, which takes place over ten days, including the seven days during which the main character, Bruno Hamel, a surgeon by profession, takes revenge without mercy on the one who annihilated the existence of his daughter and, by extension, his. It doesn’t take long before this story takes fantasies of a horror novel. The plot imagined by Mr. Senécal is of a rare intensity, and the detailed descriptions make some bloody scenes very difficult to read. It is impossible to accuse the author of displaying gratuitous violence, because each of the gestures of Bruno Hamel, we feel, is provoked by the intense madness that has seized him. Being in his shoes, I imagine we would wish having the guts to do the same.

Furthermore this novel touches two very sensitive issues: child safety and the right of victims to fight back. Regardless of our opinion on the subject, it is impossible to remain indifferent to the drama unfolding before our eyes. This story is still strong in my mind and will be there for some time…..

“Seven Days” is very well-written and is played by a cast of strong characters. Excellent read and an outstanding page-turner.
 
 

 

"Death in Shangri-La", by Yigal Zur

Death in Shangri La - Yigal Zur

Book #1, in Dotan Naor Thriller series 

This hard boiled story is set in one of the most dangerous place in Southeast Asia and in the region around Nepal. Mr. Zur brings us into the breathtaking landscape of Kashmir and the Himalayas with his protagonist Dotan Naor, a former Israeli security agent now private investigator. 

This is a fast-paced story that takes us on a journey to every Israeli’s worst nightmare: falling victim to terrorists. “Death in Shangri-La” brings Dotan in India to settle a bet and locate the missing son of Willy Mizrachi, an Israeli arms dealer, who was headed to an ashram in the Himalayas….But in the disputed region innocent Israelis kids are targeted by terrorists....nothing is what it seems….

In great parts this is a great story, the descriptions of the cities in India, their overcrowding, the poverty and corruption is very well done. The who-dunnit and the why-dunnit cover all the bases. Page after pages the drama evokes the smells and sights of a dangerous world. The plot is active, really never a dull moment, it is filled with twists and turns. Told from the point of view of an Israeli gives this recreation a refreshing change although quite macabre as it should be. The author seems to be well versed in the country and has provided us with an excellent travelogue…but a terrible image in vivid details of a beautiful place…

What was the main objective in this story?, I really couldn’t figure it out, the story touches a lot of subjects: India’s politic, terrorism, armament, illegal trades, prostitution, spirituality…etc… This smorgasbord of ideas was nevertheless captivating and well put together. The idea of a soldier turning private investigator is definitely not a new concept but “Death in Shangri-La” brings a refreshing spin by featuring Israeli characters and a plot based in India and its surroundings.

Not a bad addition to the thriller market. Well-done

"The King of Shanghai", by Ian Hamilton

The King of Shanghai - Ian  Hamilton

The Triad Years

Book # 7, in the Ava Lee series

This series is a huge entertainment hit for me and really love Ava Lee she is a brilliant, sexy and formidably martial arts-trained forensic accountant and she is always propelled into a fast-paced suspense, always far away in exotic locales and her adventures always includes a rich cast of characters both dangerous as well as lovable. I never get tired of her escapades. No worries if you did not read the previous books you will fit right in if you start here.

The seventh novel in the Ava Lee series finds Ava getting caught up in the election for the chairmanship of the Triad Societies. Xu, who was Uncle’s protégé wants to invest $150 million into her firm, and he assures her he didn’t gain the money from gang-related activity…..at the same time, Xu is trying to get voted in as the top dog of the Triad, and only has one serious competitor.

This story did not disappoint and if you are curious about the power of China, the unorthodox Ava Lee mystery is both enlightening and delightful to read. The prelude introduces us to the galloping Chinese fashion world of knock-offs and the insatiable appetite for affordable designer clothes. Then Mr. Hamilton soon put the fashion world to the backburner and refocuses the narrative on the relationship between Xu and Ava Lee. 

The plot is well structures and what moves the story along is how the characters are decked in a hybrid of exoticism and the modernity of China. Ava Lee sexual orientation does not come to play here as it did in other novels although there is a subtle sexual tension between Xu and Ava Lee throughout the novel. Of course this ambivalence reflects the skill of the author in keeping us hooked for more.

With “The King of Shanghai” Ian Hamilton has done it again. He has another great chapter in the series with a thriller aspect that has kept me turning the pages.