Toni

The way I see it

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

"Map of Plagues" - J.F. Penn
Mapwalkers book #2

Ms. Penn’s stories are a blend of psychology and the supernatural written in a fast-paced style. No doubts in my mind, she is in her elements writing dark fantasy thrillers. “Map of Plagues” chronicles further the journeys started in “Map of Shadows”, although you could easily fit right in if you start with book#2, it would be preferable to read book #1 first.

Leave all your believes behind and let yourself be transported along with the Mapwalker team across the Borderlands in a race against time to find the missing pieces of a map before the Shadow Cartographers get a hold of them and use their power against Earthside. 

I am not a huge fan of fantasy and I usually stay away from reading them but what pushes me to read books written by this author is the richness of her words. Each movement is vividly painted, dark and full of lively descriptions. The author definitely has some wicked creative skills. Did I like this story, not really, too weird and way over the top for my enjoyment. Having said this, you may want to be pulled into a world filled with blood, gore, human sacrifice and creepy characters “Map of Plagues” provides all the elements to do so. Be careful, the world Ms. Penn has created weaves a spell that will hold you captive till you turn the last page….whether you love the story or not. 

For myself I stay on the fence with this one. 

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

 

"The Killing Game" by Toni Anderson

The Killing Game - Toni Anderson

This is an enjoyable romantic suspense set in the mountainous region of north-eastern Afghanistan and tells the story of a snow leopard biologist (Axelle Dehn) who becomes the prey when cold war secrets threaten to expose a modern-day spy ring, and it is also of an elite British soldier (Ty Dempsey) who is forced to choose between his country and his heart. 

With flash-backs to the Russian occupation and terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland during the 1970’s the story sails smoothly through its mix of action, military manoeuvers, love and most of all danger. The rhythm is steady and the tone is chilling at times especially when Axelle needs to end the poaching of her beloved snow leopard. At the same time, Ty and his team are on the hunt for one of the most sought after Russian terrorist. And then their paths crosses….and we are into a harrowing fight for survival with many twists and turns to keep us on the edge of our seat.

The chemistry between Ty and Axelle is entertaining… really boy meet girl and awe love is the air…..nothing special….but hey it make for a good read. I admit Axelle got on my nerves at times….but she finally got her act together and I did not dislike her by the end. Ty, well he is the macho military and a guy in love with a damsel in distress who will go to no end to make sure she is safe…awe budding romance.

Overall this story is worth passing time with if you like a soft mystery with a tad of mushy romance…and accept the many clichés along the way you will also enjoy it….…… 

"Dying Embers", by Glenn Trust

Dying Embers - Glenn Trust
Set in the 1960’s during the time of school desegregation in the South USA, “Dying Embers” tell the story of love, hate and tragedy of six young people clinging to their friendship while racial bigotry rages around them. 

Told from the teenage boys’ point of views, this moving story takes us through the struggles of both blacks and whites youths as they have to deal with the realities of desegregation and the white racists’ hatred. Mr. Trust excels in portraying the racial attitudes of the time and creating a reading experience that has held me captive till the last page. I do remember the time of the civil rights movements and the many race riots in the 60’s. It was also the time of the Vietnam War, a time when America was in turmoil inside and outside its borders. The story is well- written to bring out the personalities of each character in roles so realistic and so close to history. How the change in the law had affected all segment of society is cleverly used in this fiction to make us realize how complex and dangerous the situation was during that time.

Mr. Trust has a fantastic way with words and has provided another atmospheric novel hard to put down. Some may think the tempo is on the slow side, but I think the author wanted for us to understand the human strengths and frailties and did so through his characters. 
 
 
 

 

"Back At You", by John W. Mefford

Back AT You - John W. Mefford

Alex Trout Thriller #9

Redemption Thriller #21 

John W. Mefford writes stories with such intensity and to the edge of your seat suspense it is very hard not to be deeply captivated following his protagonist in her mission. Alex Trout is the main character here although Mr. Mefford smoothly weaves in Ivy Nash, the main player, in the Ivy Nash series. “Back at You” brings together two very exciting badass females in journeys that only they can face.

There are two separate threads to follow for most of the thriller till the two paths intersects near the end. Thread one: Alex is at the forefront and in thread two Ivy takes center stage. Both stories are told in alternating chapters and cover the same subject:

What every parent dreads: the abduction of a child. 

Alex gets the call and is forced to carry out the wished of the captors. As we follow her on her treacherous journey we are kept on the edge of our seat, adrenaline pumping following her every move. Alex is threatened at every turn and faces one hurdle after the other…even a gun pointed at her face…

While in San Antonio an Amber Alert is set off. Ivy springs into action and is soon on the trail of the assailant trying to find the missing girl. The tension is so palpable following her every move and to see how she tackles the many difficulties thrown her way, no doubts this made for one exciting read.

Alex and Ivy finally met and everything meshed beautifully by the end ….I couldn’t flip the pages fast enough to see if both would succeed…of course they did.

What a roller-coaster ride….well-done …. of course M. Mefford's books are right up my alley..

"Terror", by Ty Patterson

"Terror" - Ty Patterson

Zeb Carter book # 4

I have been a member of Ty’s launch team for years now and I still love his stories. Ty has 5 well thought out series some ideas taken from his highly fertile imagination and some from current and past events. One thing they have in common: all are graphic and layered with thrilling action and played out with a great cast. With each thriller we see how close the members are with each other, and how they will go to no end if anyone of them gets in trouble. Zeb Carter takes center stage in the Zeb Carter series but the team is close by.

Each thriller has a fresh spin and is as exciting as the previous one. Ty hasn’t lost his touch in providing us a fast-paced, action packed and the many twists that make us relentlessly turning pages. It is also difficult to figure out how everything will turn out by the end. Although we do have many clues, the plot keeps us thinking and guessing till the very end. This latest is no exception. 

“Terror”, book #4, in the Zeb Carter series has a plot true in today’s world: all over the world single wolfs are sent to kill innocent people thus threatening the fabric of societies. Zeb Carter and his team need to thwart the actions of anarchists before it is too late….what follows is explosive action…..

This thriller certainly can be read on its own merits Mr. Patterson does give some background on his team to situate us without overloading the narrative with too many details. But as always I suggest starting with book #1.

I had a hard time putting this book down and zipped through it in no time. Well done Mr. Patterson and thank you for the ARC. 

"What Rose Forgot", by Navada Barr

"What Rose Forgot" - Nevada Barr
This is the story of Rose Dennis, a grandmother in her sixties, who wakes up in an Alzheimer unit at a nursing home. But Rose’s mind is fine, who has committed her is the question?… She does not linger with whom, what and the how, and soon a plan emerge: avoid all medication and stage an escape…. Rose on the lam is at the heart of this story and following one crazy lady trying to find who put her away is sometime funny and sometime unbelievable…...

This sounded like an interesting read and it did for the first few chapters then it got weird and ridiculous. Elderly woman climbing on a roof, sliding down the tiles, jumping out windows, kung-fu Jane at her best was not what I thought this book was all about. Some may think her action was hilarious I did not. I was hoping to see through the voice and eyes of Rose the issues of aging and dementia and how we react and treat them. I also wanted to know what a person of sound mind may do when they are wrongly housed in a nursing home. “What Rose Forgot” turned out to be a comedy at its worst…maybe it was the serious subject taken lightly that didn’t work for me. The characterization was cartoonish and I never connected with any of them. This story wasn’t my cup of tea and by far. I wanted to abandon this story many times but I stuck with it till the end…definitely not for me but it may be for you….a lot of readers have enjoyed it….

Thanks to the publisher St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for this complimentary book. All opinions expressed are my own.
 
 

 

"An Accidental Death", by Phyllis Smallman

An Accidental Death - Phyllis Smallman
A Sherri Travis Mystery # 5.5 

I hate to say this very tiny tiny book was not what I expected. Containing 14 pages of nothing this was more an introduction to her series by giving us snippets of her style and what you could expect in her protagonist. This type of offer was in style a few years back and most of us avid readers hated it, now it seems less authors do this and prefer offering novella instead….much better. This was a huge disappointment….
 
 

 

"Scorched Earth", by Ty Patterson

Scorched Earth - Ty Patterson

Book # 11 in the Warriors series

Once again Mr. Patterson has provided for his die hard thriller fans another suspenseful action story hard to put down.

The plot has the twins Beth and Meghan in the hands of kidnappers and Zeb and his team on the tails of those who dared to do this act against a member of the family. This team is unique and tight knit they will go to the end of the earth and go through hoops to protect each other. The hunt is on…..and we are on a ride that will bring us the US, Mexico, Turkey, Syria and Iraq where Zeb will discover the chilling truth…..

The story is skillfully written to give us a fast paced and action filled scenes to take our breath away. Zeb is usually one step ahead but this time is one behind the kidnappers. His moves and those of his team are unpredictable as they take us around the world where they get involved with gangsters, the cartel, Kurdish extremists, ISIS and even the police, security forces and why not the CIA. Zeb’s moto: find the twins, kill or destroy anyone in the way. 

Mr. Patterson hasn’t lost his touch and continues to entertain. Each thriller brings a fresh adventure, plenty of action, impressive traveling, lots of bullets flying ( I could go on and on). What I like the most is how everything is choreographed to a tee and how visual the team movements are described. This thriller would make a great movie.

This story is an excellent summer read. I zipped through it in no time

"Jean Vanier", by Anne-Sophie Constant

"Jean Vanier" - Anne-Sophie Constant
Portrait of a Free Man

Who is Jean Vanier: 

Jean Vanier is the founder of L'Arche communities, where a small number of people with and without intellectual disabilities live together in a spirit of conviviality and sharing. This is an expensive biography devoted to him by Anne-Sophie Constant and a nice presentation of a man out of the ordinary. Reading this book, one inevitably feels the friendship that united them ….. 

The pen of Anne Sophie Constant is crystal clear she paints a portrait of a hero to all people. A man who lived to serve those whom the society rejected: the disabled and those plagued with deformity that would send us running. This is a very religious book that emphasis on how much of the gospel is lived by.

Mr. Vanier worked as a Canadian navy officer and professor before turning to charity work and in 1964 he founded L’Arche and the charity now has 154 communities in 38 countries. Ms. Constant tells us how he managed to reach so many people and travelled the world to encourage dialogue across religions. He was a teacher and moral leader who also helped found a group called Faith and Light now composed of 1500 communities in 83 countries. This is extensive documentation on his life and achievements. On the dark side, L’Arche was not exempt from damaging incidents of abuse in the past. The founder took fast action to expel the abusers and today there is no mention of such incident.

While reading this book I had chills. Right or wrong it brought back memories of communes and sects that were the rage in the 60, 70 and 80 where a charismatic leader lured floc of people to their compound, bringing a great amount of money and free help by the followers. Jean Vanier was like an apostle where he went people floc to his side but the difference is Jean was a leader who grew up in a faith-filled Catholic family and discovered the treasure hidden in those who are intellectually disabled and wanted to help. That was his mission and he held to it till is death. Jean Vanier was a hero to many and loved around the world for his devotion.

Jean Vanier died in Paris, France, May 7th 2019 at age 90 he will be remembered as a pioneer who improved the lives of so many people.

I didn’t know of this extraordinary but simple man and less about his achievements. I had to Google his name and his organisation to know more. Too curious to see if L’arche had residences in my hometown and it does…simple residences that perfectly blend in neighborhoods and are run by caring and loving caregivers. 

This book will last in my mind for a long time….well-done Ms. Constant.

My thanks to Plough Publishing and NetGalleys for this ARC
 
 
 

 

"Jean Vanier", by Anne-Sophie Constant

"Jean Vanier" - Anne-Sophie Constant
Portrait of a Free Man

Who is Jean Vanier: 

Jean Vanier is the founder of L'Arche communities, where a small number of people with and without intellectual disabilities live together in a spirit of conviviality and sharing. This is an expensive biography devoted to him by Anne-Sophie Constant and a nice presentation of a man out of the ordinary. Reading this book, one inevitably feels the friendship that united them ….. 

The pen of Anne Sophie Constant is crystal clear she paints a portrait of a hero to all people. A man who lived to serve those whom the society rejected: the disabled and those plagued with deformity that would send us running. This is a very religious book that emphasis on how much of the gospel is lived by.

Mr. Vanier worked as a Canadian navy officer and professor before turning to charity work and in 1964 he founded L’Arche and the charity now has 154 communities in 38 countries. Ms. Constant tells us how he managed to reach so many people and travelled the world to encourage dialogue across religions. He was a teacher and moral leader who also helped found a group called Faith and Light now composed of 1500 communities in 83 countries. This is extensive documentation on his life and achievements. On the dark side, L’Arche was not exempt from damaging incidents of abuse in the past. The founder took fast action to expel the abusers and today there is no mention of such incident.

While reading this book I had chills. Right or wrong it brought back memories of communes and sects that were the rage in the 60, 70 and 80 where a charismatic leader lured floc of people to their compound, bringing a great amount of money and free help by the followers. Jean Vanier was like an apostle where he went people floc to his side but the difference is Jean was a leader who grew up in a faith-filled Catholic family and discovered the treasure hidden in those who are intellectually disabled and wanted to help. That was his mission and he held to it till is death. Jean Vanier was a hero to many and loved around the world for his devotion.

Jean Vanier died in Paris, France, May 7th 2019 at age 90 he will be remembered as a pioneer who improved the lives of so many people.

I didn’t know of this extraordinary but simple man and less about his achievements. I had to Google his name and his organisation to know more. Too curious to see if L’arche had residences in my hometown and it does…simple residences that perfectly blend in neighborhoods and are run by caring and loving caregivers. 

This book will last in my mind for a long time….well-done Ms. Constant.

My thanks to Plough Publishing and NetGalleys for this ARC
 
 

 

"Trigger Break", by Ty Patterson

Trigger Break: Crime Action Thrillers (Warriors Series Book 10) - Ty Patterson

Warriors book # 10

Totally out of this world, unbelievable, and implausible but what a ride. I love this series but I do need to take time off between installments…ouf action packed a la Jason Bourne, Bruce Lee is put to shame with Zeb’s Kung Fu movements, he is a little much of a super hero but hey why not that is the fun of it. We do not have a dull moment all through, tension from beginning to end in a plot that is exciting with many twists and turns and one that pulls us in right from the start. Definitely this is my genre of story. What a page turner.

“Trigger Break” is mainly set in Japan with the Yakuza right in the middle. So you can imagine it is a challenge to remember names of the syndicates and even to place them but Mr. Patterson knows how to make us blend in with slick sleuthing spin and the Yakuza charms…. The martial arts description is outstanding: graphic and visual. The story also touches some feature of the Yakuza culture such as the tradition of severing the joint of the little finger, drugs-smuggling, human trafficking and arms smuggling, etc. everything is well blended to provide us with a captivating read…. well-done as always.

Mr. Patterson is a gifted storyteller with a wild imagination who is well versed in all branches he thrust his protagonist into. Zeb with his gang of trusted operatives entertain us in intriguing stories spanning international countries. 

Zeb is unstoppable….love him. 

"One More Degree", by C.J. West

"One More Degree" - CJ West

I agree with those saying this fantasy has a very original concept, is very inventive and is highly imaginative. But can it appeal to all…

My take in a nut shell:

Four people’ s souls now in their 72nd year in purgatory are waiting for the solstice to come so they can be reborn and start a life again. While they wait for the time to come they shape the lives of people they choose on earth to their liking: these poor lost souls are: Karma, Lady Luck, Destiny and Fate. The story is told through the eyes of Felix Lacroix (we only discover who he is by the end of the book) as he tells us chapters after chapters what games his pals pull on their targets to change the course of their life….

My thoughts:

Most reviews I read gave this story 5 stars, unfortunately it won’t from me. Ok I may be the odd ball here but at least I am being frank. Although I took the time to read all of it and by the end hated having spent so time on a story that I almost forgot before I had even turned the last page. 

Why did this story not gel for me: Too many chapters, one after the other told stories that were disjointed before finally a light came and things seemed to fall into place and the pieces of the puzzle finally matched. Too much time elapsed before I came to figure out that each chapter wasn’t a new story but actually a continuation of the previous spell Karma, Lady Luck, Destiny or Fate had placed on their subjects. Maybe I am not into fantasy….and not believing in the afterlife may also be the reason.

Now that you know I hated this book I must tell you Mr. West has a huge library of stories and I read a good selection of them in the past and have enjoyed most. This book may not have been my cup of tea but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give this one a go…who knows you may love it…..

You really need to change perspective or pass on this one. This is one book you either love or hate…..

"At Any Cost", by John W. Mefford

AT Any Cost - John W. Mefford
Alex Trout Thriller book # 8

Redemption Thriller book # 20

This edition begins where the previous left off and this latest is told mostly from Alex and Ozzie‘s perspective. The plot has a strong beginning; someone is holding a gun to Alex’s head…

Our protagonist once more faces new challenges finding herself in the middle of puzzling cases: someone is hacking ATM and dead bodies are turning up and witnesses are being murdered. If this is not enough to contend with Alex thinks there may be a connection to Ozzie protective custody in these cases….and if so this can be dangerous……

You must read this series in sequence to understand where the players come from and appreciate where the thriller leads us. We do not have much backstory to put us straight. 

“At Any Cost” is a suspenseful and entertaining read. The plot is well written and pulls you in from the start. The author lets us know a bit more about Alex and Ozzie and how they adjusting to life despite the tragedies they faced as both are now ready to most forward….but will Mr. Mefford let them do so…there is no conclusion here so let’s see in the next book if we will have one. 

Reading this book gives a good ride and does not disappoint. What is not to like: extortion, bombings and assassinations and Alex going off the books trying to stop a blood-thirsty group who wants control and pad their pockets…Shots fly, Alex and Ozzie try to escape death but where does this leads….How does everything fit together? … There is a betrayal …..by the end, a gun is pointed at Alex face…will this be her last day of life?....stay tuned… Oh yes, this is one of those books that leave us in a cliff-hanger….

Although I enjoyed this story a lot, it was not my preferred one in the series, at times the narrative seemed rushed and some of the action was not as strong as in the precedent novels. Having said this I still think this is not a book to miss out on.

I enjoy this series and can’t wait to see what Mr. Mefford has in store next.
 
 

 

"Best Kept Secret", by Jeffrey Archer

Best Kept Secret - Jeffrey Archer

The Clifton Chronicle book# 3

The book picks up after the events in “The Sins of the Father” and is a real pot boiler that continues the Clifton gripping family and political sagas which spans the years 1945 to 1958 in this installment.

The momentum of the narrative swings between Giles Barrington, now Member of Parliament and the Cliftons: Harry and Emma. The first have of the story moves forward by the legal ruling as to who is the true heir of the Barrington’s and the second part see Sebastian, son of Harry and Emma embroiled in an international fraud crime. Eventually the two families use their influence to pulled Sebastian out of his mess and by the time we reach the last page we are left in a cliffhanger that we do not see coming. Plot-driven novels are hard to discuss without spoilers, so I will say no more…..

So far, I have enjoyed reading this series. The style is simple and the prose is straightforward with minimal description. Mr. Archer knows how to build tension to move his plot forward and how to leave us breathless by the end. The characters may be a bit the cookie cutter type but I love them the way they are. This is definitely a soap opera at its best….

“Best Kept Secret” tells a story by itself, with enough explanation of how the characters came to be without retelling the previous events but rather focussing one the events that were unfolding. Definitely worth reading it. 

"The Winemaker's Wife", by Kristin Harmel

The Winemaker's Wife - Kristin Harmel

This is a complex story of love, betrayal and courage told with exceptional skill. Written in heart wrenching prose “The Winemaker’s Wife” goes back and forth between time and the present: Champagne, 1940 and 2019.

1940

The story gives us a different perspective of Germany occupied France. As it opens Ines has just married Michel, then owner of the champagne house Maison Chauveau when the Germans invade. As the danger mounts Michel joins the resistance. When rumours about Jews being deported… fear sets in… Celine, Michel’s chef de cave’s wife, is half Jewish….. They are afraid of being exposed…

Ines and Celine are the main voices and tell their point of views in alternate chapters as the war moves on. Celine tends to follow her heart and Ines eventually makes a dangerous mistake with a Nazi collaborator….Their side is told with warmth and emotions…

2019

In New York Grandmother Edith shows up at Liv Kent’s home insisting on a trip to France, she has something in mind and wants to share her tragic story with her granddaughter. 

Edith and Liv are the driving voices when the story moves to the present. 

More thoughts:

Actually we have two stories and at first I was wondering where the connection might be. The author keeps giving tidbits of information teasing till the denouement. The suspense is held throughout and very well-done. Although the plot moves very slowly and nothing melodramatic happens well into the novel I was nevertheless deeply engaged from the get-go. This tragic story inspired by real events tells how people make desperate choices in order to survive and is one that offers many twists which I did not see coming. 

War stories are my favourite, even if they are fictional there is always some truth to them. “The Winemaker’s Wife” is set amid the champagne vineyards of northern France and we have a small view of how it may have operated during this hard time…right or wrong I do not care, the description is vivid and the drama lively….

Eventually the past and present merge and we are back to the caves of Maison Chauveau. Well-done.

I received this ARC from the publisher Simon& Schuster via NetGalleys for my thoughts

"The Mountain Master of Sha Tin, by Ian Hamilton

The Mountain Master of Sha Tin (Ava Lee #12) - Ian  Hamilton

Book #12, in the Ava Lee series

Ava is in Shanghai with Pang Fai to visit her ailing friend Xu when a violent triad war breaks out between two feuding gangs vying for control of the Wanchai territory in Hong Kong. Ava steps in to broker a settlement.

This 12th novel does not disappoint. The turf war between the Wings clan who is trying to take back power from Xu, the head of triads, is mixed with cold brutality and provides a fascinating peek into a disturbing world we hear of but hopefully never see. Nothing is subtle with their methods…..

When Xu’s soldiers are kidnapped and the Wings threaten to execute them after sending a box containing six fingers and a twelve hour deadline, Ava is driven to the edge and devises a plan that only death will solve…but who will fall first.

I love Ava Lee she is a female sleuth extraordinaire. In this latest she steps away from recuperating stolen cash and other business ventures to concentrate on being the negotiator between two fearless gangs and help Xu regain full control. The plot is suspenseful and intriguing of course we find lots of violence to make us cringe. Ava is at her best, the challenges she faces are intriguing. The action never ends, move fast and is very captivating, quite a page turner. No worries if you pick up this series here, there is enough backstories to situate the new comers and not too many details to overwhelm the avid fans…..

Once again, Mr. Hamilton has penned a great thriller for our enjoyment and he surely hit the button with this one. . Well-done as usual I love this series. 

Many thanks to the publisher House of Anansi Press and to Edelweiss for this ARC