Toni

The way I see it

"King of Swords", by Russell Blake

King of Swords - Russell Blake

Book #1, in the Assassin series

This is one brutal and heart-stopping novel I read in a long time. In “King of Swords” we are taken on a violent journey through drug cartel of Mexico. This thriller is definitely not for the fainthearted, it is a blend of facts and fiction and strange enough, we will never know where the truth ends and where Mr. Russell’s inspiration kicked in, the fine line between is a little fuzzy.

This thriller is cranked up on steroids and has left me gasping and cringing more often than not. The storyline is very graphic. It captures the casual savagery of the ordinary men engaged in extraordinary brutality. Thousands of good and bad people die every year caught in violent confrontations. The author wanted to highlight the psychological making of a monster and he perfectly achieved his goal in his storyline. The pacing is high-velocity I couldn’t help but to follow the tempo by furiously flipping the pages so captivated by the goings- on. El Rey, the main character is a cold blooded killer and assassin operating in Mexico who would work for both the cartels and the police depending upon the situation. Romero Cruz is the police captain on El Rey’s tail and with panoply of interesting side players adding to the thrill, we can only be smack into an exciting saga. Reading this book is like watching a Die Hard movie. It is extremely well- written, full of nasty stuff, fast-paced (I think I said this many times), violent, enthralling….

This thriller is an excellent cat and mouse game full of gritty details. I loved it. 

"The Westhampton Hurricane", by gerald J. Kubicki and Kristopher Kubicki

The Westhampton Hurricane: Colton Banyon Mystery  #27 (Volume 27) - Kristopher Kubicki, Gerald J. Kubicki

Book # 27, in the Colton Banyon Adventure/Mystery series

When Mr. Kubicki sent his book for review he told me “You will like this one”, he was perfectly right. This one turned out to be one of my preferred Colton Banyon books to date.

This book follows the same pattern as most of them starting with a prologue taking us back in time and giving us a bit of history and a tad of speculation. It is followed with multiple short and captivating chapters and finally ends with the usual author’s notes telling us that most of his story is a fruit of his imagination and as always the events and facts are true but have been enhanced to fit the story. 

But what a story, Mr Kubicki brings us back to when Colton Banyon was in his late teens living in Westhampton, the year is 1966. It opens after a hurricane struck and smashed part of the Island and destroyed some houses. Colton with his friend Dale decided to explore the surrounding but what they found was the military standing guard. They are young and fearless and a little pocking around couldn’t hurt….and the weekend long adventure commences…. 

This book is a fun read, not taxing at all with clear and concise wordings. Of course we should be entertained with this mystery and not take it too seriously. In reality, the German U boat mentioned was never found and archaeological societies have discredited anything to do with the Phoenicians. What I enjoyed particularly is the turn down tone the mystery has: no ridiculous fantasies, no nit-wit oversexed women, no big bang and jump over the moon action the previous installments gave us. It is a plain very subdued story writing in a very captivating manner. It doesn’t leave out intrigue, plenty of it throughout. For fans of this series, you will finally know how (Wolf) and Colton met. 

Although this book is part of a series starting with this one would be a good move, it works well as a stand-alone novel. I think young people could enjoy this one also.

"Pacific Reaper", by Carmen Amato

Pacific Reaper: An Emilia Cruz Novel - Carmen Amato

Book# 5, in the Emilia Cruz Mysteries

In “Pacific Reaper”, Emilia confronts a death worshiping cult and takes us once again inside Mexico’s drug war. The setting is Acapulco, a breathtaking and deadly city where Mexican cartels battles for control and more politicians that you can imagine are in the drug lord’s pockets.

Murder victims are sacrificed to Santo Muerte. Looking into gruesome and ritualistic murders Emilia takes us to another level of suspense. This character-driven mystery is hard to put down. The author has raised the stakes for her protagonist by forcing her to face vicious members of the cartel while appeasing her superiors and politician and making peace with her colleagues (Emilia’s continual battle). As the investigation progresses and more clues fall into place, more blood is shed and more is revealed. The novel pulls no punches. 

This crackling multi-faceted story is well-written, is most captivating, one that keeps a steady pace and holds the attention from the get-go. We also have new revelations about the main character, her family and the people she associates with, adding a nice personal touch. I can well imagine this scenario happening in the real world this is both scary and fascinating at the same time…..You have done it again Ms. Amato providing your readers with hours of entertainment. 

The author is an ace storyteller and one of my favourite authors. I wish to thank you Ms. Amato for the gift of your book for my enjoyment. These are my thoughts I have not be asked to give a positive review.

"Operation Hail Storm", by Brett Arquette

Operation Hail Storm - Classroom Edition - Brett Arquette

Book #1, in the Hail series

If you are a die-hard fan of thrillers that uses detailed technology of drones and military equipment to intricately detail a plot you will find all you wish for with “Operation Hail Storm” and much more. This captivating story has multi-billionaire Marshall Hail, the main character, using his vast resources to fight a personal vendetta after losing his family in a terrorist attack.

Although well done, this thriller has a level of technology details all through that is quite overwhelming, maybe it is a bit too technically challenging and rather overly done at least in my books. Once passed all those terms we are into a cleverly laid and executed plot with characters we come to know in minutia details. Alongside Hail is Kara a deadly CIA operative who plays the female lead. The drones in Hail fleet are piloted by elite video gamers and MIT graduates we meet some of them in their unique roles. This interesting high-tech story includes super tankers with cinemas, high class restaurants and all the goodies found in upper class hotels, not forgetting all the fire power found on naval ships and plus. The experience may be over the top but is quite exciting to read.

This thought-provoking thriller that uses drones as a way of assassination may have a slow start but the originality and the constant alternate action between Hail’s ship, what happens between US Security Council and Hail (the USA Executive’s problem- solver) and what happens in North Korea make for a very captivating read hard to put down. Yes, the pacing does pick up and becomes fast and furious…or was I so much into this story that I couldn’t help swiping pages at a rapid pace to see what would happen next. Excellent story.

I wish to thank the author for providing a review copy of his book. 

"Noble Intentions: Season One"by L.T. Ryan

Noble Intentions: Season One - L.T. Ryan

Book # 4 in the Jack Noble series 

This thriller is a collection of five episodes sort of standalone stories that are smoothly meshed into one volume. This series follows the story of Jack Noble, an assassin for hire who practices his art with a clean conscience and he does it for the money.

The main characters:

Jack is an awesome cold blooded killer: rather smart, somewhat funny and definitely you want him on your side but deep down he has a heart of gold. Bear is his best friend, this guy has a soft spot also although don’t step on his toes. Clarissa is the only one that can keep Jack and Bear straight and can keep up with them. Mandy plays a good part in this story also, she the little girl that the group took under their wings. 

The setting:

As in many thrillers the story brings you to different countries, where you hear different languages and meet good people and a lot of bad ones.

The story in a few words: 

Jack stop to help a lost child moments before he's supposed to complete a deal with one of the east coast's top crime bosses? This is a decision that places Jack in unfamiliar territory. He's become the hunted and finds himself in a race against time to save those closest to him.

My thoughts:

This is a fast-pace suspense full of nonstop action, a bit far-fetched but captivating if you not squeamish with all the killings you will surely have a hoot reading this book. The style is rough and saccadic but this didn’t bother me after all it is mainly a story of killers, don’t forget these guys don’t pussyfoot around. I love all characters even brutal ones can be likable. The author knows how to develop an exciting plot with well-drawn characters to pull us in from start to finish. I would say it is a gripping page-turner

"Hamfist Down", by G.E. Nolly

Hamfist Down!: Evasion, Survival and Combat in the Jungle - G.E. Nolly

Survival and Combat in the Jungle

Book #2, in the Adventures of Hamilton “Hamfist”Hamcock

This novel is based on actual events about air combat in the Vietnam War. This series follows Air Force pilot Hamilton “Hamfist” Hamcock as he evolves from an inexperience lieutenant to a seasoned combat pilot flying aircraft in the skies of North Vietnam. This series is dedicated to American military veterans.

The tone is harsh after all this is war with Special Ops and Green Berets all over the place, this is scary as hell. The first sentence you hear “getting shot down sucks”. For those not familiar with terms this novel is a bit hard to follow it contains a lot of operational details about mission to fetch people from hostile jungle. Although it is a bit romanticised, the experience is inevitably tough and exciting, of course Hamfist does manage to get shot down, get extricated, escape unscathed and have a burgeoning romance with a Japanese beauty…hey why not, many men did have a distraction. The jargon is taken from experience of the time and place and Hamfist characterisation fits both the hardboiled soldier and the sensitive men he really is. He tells his story with humour and with some profanity. He is quite crude at time. Hold your breath, the tempo is fast and furious so much action fills the pages while we follow the day to day activities of the pilots. This is a gritty and gruesome time and such a captivating read.

Although I started this series with book 2 not knowing what had previously happened did not put me at a disadvantage but this story did pique my interest to backtrack and get book 1 “Hamfist Over the Trail”.

Love this one

"All She Left Behind", by Jane Kirkpatrick

All She Left Behind - Jane Kirkpatrick

This historical fiction is a carefully researched blend of historical events using real people. The story is about Jennie Pickett and her struggle to become a doctor in the 1870’s Oregon. 

This tale is an amazing journey in a time where women physicians were shun by society. For Jennie to become a doctor she had to surmount imaginable obstacles: her dyslexia and a difficult husband and son. She first learned homeopathic treatments with herbs and oil and practiced her art at every occasion with passion. After her divorce from her husband, she met her second husband, a wonderful man who gave her all the encouragement and the push needed to become a doctor. We follow her life through a bad marriage and a good marriage.

This story is told in a smooth narrative one that easily pulled me in from the first chapter. I wanted Jennie to succeed and have a wonderful life. She is portrayed as a strong and determined person regardless of her disabilities and the tragedies in her life. We have a lot of surprises along the way to keep us flipping the pages. 

This is a captivating story of over-coming tragedy and poor choices, personal and family challenges and never losing hope. It is also a story of love. Beautifully written this novel is hard not to like.

“All She Left Behind” is based on a true story

I received this ARC from the publisher Revell via the Early Reviewer Program for an honest and unbiased review.

"Environmentally Friendly", by Elias Zanbaka

Environmentally Friendly - Elias Zanbaka
I was provided a copy of this book by the author for review. Not knowing the author or the book I had hoped for a decent war against Mother Nature and an exciting cop chase in just a few words. 

This short story unfortunately did not deliver. Maybe being only 20 pages was not enough to have development and sustained a storyline that is exciting. I was more of a mish-mash of scenes happening out of the blue. Reaching the end didn’t come fast enough for me. Too many times I had to reread twice some lines to understand the passage in order to grasp what was going on. Some words were cut mid-way or were missing. This book needed editing badly. Maybe if the author would have taken time to stretch his story the result could have been quite different. 

I am not a fan of short story this one is the proof why….
 
 

 

"The Devil's Crucible", by Ian McKenzie-Vincent

"The Devil's Crucible - Ian Mckenzie-Vincent

This is a highly imaginative global adventure about climate changes. Whether you believe what is told or not one thing for sure Mr. Mckenzie-Vincent’s views will have you ponder….can all this dome and gloom really happen one day ….

True facts in this story are events that happened in the past but again are all of them the results of climate change or simply normal occurrences. Indeed deforestation is a big factor and mismanagement of our resources an even bigger one. To bring his points across and to shake us into taking action, the author has given us a horror story of tsunami, earthquakes, forest fires, air and water pollution, hurricanes, corporation greed and world corruption, any disregard of our ecosystems etc. all events that has or could happened and by extrapolating the effects he brought the what is and what if to life. Although I think he is preaching to us I nevertheless agree this is a very scary vision. 

We may not love what is said and find it to be over the top but as extremists do this is a story that pictures a dim future with its many graphic scenes telling us to wake up and take responsibility. Yes, this should make us open our eyes wide and realise that dumping raw sewer in our water is not helpful, killing or capturing endangered species for pleasure and destroying the ecosystem for gain is totally inacceptable. Although the subject may be dark it is nevertheless told in a captivating manner with lot of suspense and action. It progresses smoothly and keeps the pace going till the conclusion. The players are the run of the mill but don’t hold that against them they act their part beautifully. The narration is simple and clear after all a strong message is being told. Over- all a good story.

This novel is no longer available at well-known online book stores in North America , too bad I think this book is well worth passing time with….

"The Life She Was Given", by Ellen Marie Wiseman

The Life She Was Given - Ellen Marie Wiseman

Set in the 20th century, this very emotional tale weaves together the stories of two women. Alternately we follow Lilly Blackwood, a young albino girl who has been kept in a secret attic room most of her life till one day her mom sold her to a traveling circus freak show. Once there we are in the circus world, with all the good and bad. We jump two decades later, with Julia Blackwood returning to the family farm where she will soon discover the attic’s dark secrets ….

The story is very touching as we slowly discover the disturbing and frightening things done to Lilly and the kind of life she had hidden away in an attic for years and how she must have felt to be sold by someone she loved to an unscrupulous man running a circus. Undeniably Ms. Wiseman did extensive research to recreate the circus life, its slang, performers and their superstitions, animals training and shows, their behaviours including noises and most of all, how the freak shows was run and how important and lucrative this sideshow was, not forgetting the presence of fraudulent medium star performer who was the highlight in many ways. In graphic scenes, the story also explores how the circus animals were treated or mistreated. 

The story overlaps with Julia taking over her family’s horse business and slowly the secret that binds the two lies at the heart of the tragedy…..Moving between Lilly’s and Julia stories the authors has portrayed two extraordinary and very different women with exceptional life filled with family secrets, tragedy, hope and joy. Their stories displayed a mix of emotions that can possibly drain some readers. Both characters are compelling as well as the myriad of vivid secondary players even the evil ones. All roles were played perfectly.

This engrossing tale is written in short chapters using contemporary language and keeps a steady pace throughout. “The Life She Was Given” is a page tuner almost impossible to put down.

I received this review copy from the publisher via Netgalleys .

"Manhattan Lockdown", by Paul Batista

Manhattan Lockdown - Paul A. Batista

This though-provoking thriller brings us to New York City on a beautiful Sunday afternoon to celebrate Roland Fortune’s birthday, the guest of honor and the mayor of the city. Then suddenly multiple explosions rock the entire building….many are killed or terribly injured….Manhattan is placed on lockdown…

This fast moving plot not only provides entertainment but will also make us think….could a terrorist attack happen again…The plot brings us literally into a battle in the streets of Manhattan as well-known buildings are blown apart by terrorists. The story gets straight into the action in the first pages and moves along at a steady pace with never ending twists and turns all the way through. The descriptions are so vivid it is easy to become part of the horrible scenes of carnage. In this provocative tale there is so much tension and turmoil all through no wonder I was kept on the edge of my seat and hanging on…:) The story’s unpredictability is particularly well-done, no way can we forecast how it will evolve, how it will end and who is really responsible for the bombings. The driven force is the many well-developed and complex characters that populate the pages. We work our way through the story following the Mayor, the Police Commissioner, the NYPD, the president of the United States, a doctor and panoply of smaller players. 

This thriller is without any doubt a suspenseful look at a plausible scenario.

I received this ARC from the publisher Oceanview Publishing via Edelweiss for an honest and unbiased review.

"The Con Man's Daughter", by Candice Curry

The Con Man's Daughter: A Story of Lies, Desperation, and Finding God - Candice Curry

A Story of Lies, Desperation, and Finding God

Ms. Curry bravely shares with grace what it was like to grow up with a con man and a convicted criminal.

The author writes with so much heart about her painful childhood and how deep the wounds left by her father had affected her well-being. This is an emotional story of a kid with an unimaginable childhood that kept a brave face and hid her turmoil to herself. She only wanted to be love and accepted. This quick and easy read drew me in from page one, told plainly without bitterness she speaks with respect of her feeling towards her father. Later on in life she seeks redemption and was able to find solace in god and finally peace of heart with a loving husband and children. This is a unique and heartbreaking journey that ends beautifully.

This testimony took courage to write and I admire Ms. Curry for doing so. If God was her path to forgiveness and happiness I am happy it worked….

It is hard to like or dislike memoirs after all they belong to the author. It is the way it is said and Ms. Curry does it with passion. 

I received this ARC from the publisher Baker Books via the Early Reviewer Program for an honest and unbiased review

"A Harvest of Thorns", by Corban Addison

A Harvest of Thorns - Corban Addison

Do we really know where and under which conditions our clothes are made? Do we even question ourselves….I admit to simply look at labels to see where it is made and that is the limit of my curiosity till now. After reading Mr. Addison latest novel where he takes us on a journey tracking a brand of clothing across the world I may think twice before purchasing my clothes in the future but again rarely do I see clothes made in my country reasonably priced so what choice do I have?….. Based on real-life events, this fiction begins with a fire in a clothing factory in Bangladesh and follows a large American company's reaction. It also addresses the reality of sweat shops, slave labor and the rights of workers in developing countries.

The chapters alternate from the perspective of Cameron Alexander, general counsel for the company (Presto) and those of Josh Griswold, a disgrace journalist as they dig deep into the many issues in front of them. As the story moves on, we have some very emotional chapters told through the eyes of people working in factories. The narrative voices are thorough and intellectual, complete with refine vocabulary. With firsthand knowledge of law and journalistic inside we find a plot that flows smoothly and is well- informed. At its heart “A Harvest of Thorns” is a story of two men fighting for what they believe is right and decent while fighting an inner turmoil that is shaking their lives…

After long hours of research, Mr. Addison has created a thought-provoking story where he goes into fine details about the fire and how the people made their fateful decision to break through windows. ”A Harvest of Thorns” was inspired by the 2012 Tazreen fashions factory fire in Bangladesh where more than a 100 workers died and more than 200 were injured.

Mr. Corban, an attorney and human right activist uses fiction to explore social justice themes. In the past he has touched the international sex trade in “A Walk Across the Sun”, the lawless coast of Somalia in “The Tears of Dark Water” and in “The Garden of Burning Sands” the epidemic of child sexual assault in Zambia.

All his stories are eye opening and very captivating.

"The Blackhouse", by Peter May

The Blackhouse - Peter  May

Book # 1, in the Lewis Trilogy

This is an intricately plotted story featuring Detective sergeant Finlay (Fin) Macleod of the Edinburgh police force. Fin has been dispatched to his home village of Crobost on the Isle of Lewis to investigate a gruesome murder that resembles another case he worked on in Edinburgh.

The story has a split framework told in alternating chapters. Narrated in a first person in a melancholy tone are chapters where Fin’s childhood memories come to surface by his homecoming then we switch to the thirst person narration in a tougher tone when the present- day police procedural investigating the grisly killing of the village bully kicks-in and we go back and forth. It takes a lot of time to get use to this but it is well worth staying put. 

There is so much going on with the tradition murder investigation which takes many twists and turns while Fin’s memories propels him in the past. After I got used to this style the recollections became quite interesting, it would be unfair to give away too many secrets. And as the story unfolds and all the threads are neatly tied by the end… it emerges that Fin and his childhood story are intimately linked with the murder……

With pitch-perfect characterization, this densely plotted story heavy on atmosphere and richly detailed local colour is addictive. Its strong vocabulary and traditional Gaelic names and terms (a glossary is provided) transports us to the island, a place where life is rugged and where people are fascinating. Some may shy away from the annual trip to kill guga sea birds but this hefty dose of Lewis custom is the perfect climax to wrap this unique story. The ending is huge and heart-pounding.

"The Last Patriot", by Brad Thor

The Last Patriot - Brad Thor

Book # 7, in the Scot Harvath series

Although this thriller is part of a series and I prefer reading the books in sequence I had no trouble picking this one at this stage. I was fast taken in by this exiting story and enjoyed Scot Harvath attempts to uncover a revelation that could damage the standing of radical Islam. This book was on the New York bestseller while being banned in Saudi Arabia when it came out (no wonder).

Being my first attempt reading this author was a good experience although having said this, “The Last Patriot” is very formulaic. . I had to set aside that the plot was pure fantasy and not be offended by its topic. Throughout the book we have long anti-Islamic diatribes that may be too much and again we have Homeland Security operatives working under the radar for the president, nothing new there. Many authors have hashed this over and over, it is time to let go. 

“The Last Patriot” mixes a certain amount of truth with creative and artistic fiction. The plot is wrapped around the idea that the prophet Mohammed shared a final revelation with some of his closest friends, who then murdered him to keep him quiet and what he said a secret. It all started when the president read the White House diary of Thomas Jefferson sending Harvath on a journey looking for clues to the Jefferson discovery. 

This thriller is a buffet of everything we want in a good thriller: suspense, action, well-written, fun, a high-adrenaline escapist and a cinematic page-turner hard to put down. This is pure entertainment. 

"Toward the Sunrise", by Elizabeth Camden

Toward the Sunrise: An Until the Dawn Novella - Elizabeth Camden

Book #0.5, in Until the Down series

I am not a huge fan of novellas but I will make exception here. It was just enough of a teaser to see the author style and enjoy her introduction to the series and her characters. By omitting the fluff that no one really cares about, the author has managed to propel an excellent storyline within 100 pages or so.

This page- turner for some but maybe not for others brings us to the end of the 19th century in Hudson River Valley and is a good start to the Until Dawn series. Although I wish “Toward the Sunrise” would have been a novel instead. The story offers an intriguing peek in the life of residents of the abandoned Vandermark historic estate. Julia Broeder is the main character she dreams becoming a medical missionary and with the help of Aston Carlyle she will achieve her dream ……and more. The plot is vivid, complex and is well paced. Considering the shortness of this novel the characterisation is quite enjoyable although missing substance. (Unfortunately, there is no time for development in a novella).

This is a sweet historical romance novella I enjoyed quite a bit. Maybe I was just in the right mood for this type of book……

Currently reading

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Philip Kerr