Toni

The way I see it

"The Mountain Master of Sha Tin, by Ian Hamilton

"The Mountain master of Sha Tin - 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

"At Stake", by John W. Mefford

AT Stake (Redemption Thriller #19) - John W. Mefford

Alex Trout Thriller # 7

Redemption Thriller # 19

I love this series, love Alex and love that she is teaming up with Ozzie in this mystery. (Ozzie is the main character in the Ozzie Novack series). Although part of a series, all of the books can technically be read alone without missing too much but I strongly suggest you read them in sequence.

This is a good mystery with edge of your seat action and suspense. The plot brings back memories of the Boston Marathon terror attack that occurred in 2013. “At Stake” sounds and visuals are right on. It opens with hysteria when in the crowd bombs went off and Alex’s partner is injured now in hospital clinging to life. Alex is Alex and she will not take orders to step down….

Of course she is all action but if you think you can figure out what is going to happen, well you would be back to square one in no time, so I am warning you Mr. Mefford throws lots of kinks in the mix to derail us. The plot is crafted to give us excitement and thrills to keep us turning the pages. I like Alex’s showdown with the most vicious villain, it gives us all the suspense imaginable. Mr. Mefford is a gifted storyteller, his imagination has no limits. This time, taking an actual event then spinning his web of intrigue and making an excellent story for us to be captivated with. He doesn’t fail…..of course to lure us even more the story ends in a cliff-hanger….Stay tuned…next “At Any Cost”

"I'll Never Tell", by Catherine McKenzie

I'll Never Tell - Catherine McKenzie

This psychological suspense novel revolves around an unsolved incident at a summer camp and a disturbing family reunion 20 years later. 

20 years ago:

Amanda Holmes was found bludgeoned in a rowboat at the MacAllister family camp. What really happened to her that day and why was no one ever charged with the crime. 

Present time:

After the death of their parents, the siblings return to the camp for the reading of the will and to settle the estate. But the will stipulate they need to unravel the mystery of what happened to Amanda before they can inherit. 

My thoughts:

“I’ll Never tell” unwraps its mystery drop by drop and lets you wonder till the very last page how deeply buried is the family secret…..It is told with deftness and surety as we are placed in the middle of the family drama. Grown up the siblings fight as they did as kids and while they reminisce their time at the camp years ago we feel part of the scenario. The story goes back and forth from one sibling to another, from secondary character to another, from the present and in flashback to the pass. This may seem a bit confusing at times and may be hard to keep everyone in place, since each brings a different perspective and more secrets. But the excellent narrative, the driving force here that pushes the plot forward and eventually everything meshes nicely and falls into place…as results I never guessed who was behind….what a satisfying ending. 

I have to admit, at first I found this story way too slow and somewhat boring but I fast changed my mind as the story progressed. I was deeply into it mid-way and found it hard to put it down since I wanted to know what really happened to Amanda. Those tidbits of information just kept me going…nicely done.

“I’ll Never Tell” is a gritty mystery that kept me guessing and wondering till the very end. This latest has to be Ms. McKenzie’s best so far. 

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

"Twelve Days", by Alex Berenson

Twelve Days (A John Wells Novel) - Alex Berenson

Book #9, in the John Wells series

After book # 8, I needed to take a long break from this series in fact it has been over 4 ½ years since I read “The Counterfeit”, why did I wait so long to get to “Twelve Days” ….I really had enough with problems between the US and Iran, this series was getting stale to me….I finally had to put it on my read shelf once and for all so here I am with my thoughts…..

“Twelve Days”, starts where the prequel left us. If you pick up this series here, no worries, there is a lot of information dumps for the new readers to catch up, although I recommend you read the previous installments first. This series is built around John Wells, an American intelligence operative and the main focus is a countdown to battle between the US and Iran. 

It opens with a bag. A shoulder –fired rocket brings down a passenger jet. Iran is suspected to be behind this tragedy. The fictional US president has then decided that Iran has a bomb and has ordered strikes against the country, given 12 days to come clean…but Iran doesn’t really have the bomb…. So what then… our super-human goes through a series of adventures and misadventures to save the day and at times he does entertain us.

Unfortunately, this story tends to meander way too much. A good part is essentially recaps of the previous books. It seems the author was struggling to fill the pages to give us the action we came to expect. Wells is all over the place he jumps from the Middle East, to Russia, to South Africa and to the US while battling his own government which is convinced the evidence against Iran is solid. What a conspiracy theory….12 days countdown till the last hour… can this scenario be possible? No it sounds unrealistic/unbelievable for a government to do this….or could this happen someday….or could a third party as suggested in this plot be behind this kind of conspiracy…..

I had a hard time staying with this book. It took way to long, not until half way through before the author gets going from there finally the story picks up and the plot has some spring into it. Most action scenes are bland some are captivating but nothing original comes out and things drags on and on and on…..finally Wells save the day and the world is a better place for it….haha

"The Jewels of Paradise" by Donna Leon

The Jewels of Paradise - Donna Leon

This is Ms. Leon’s first standalone novel after a long series of mysteries featuring Commissario Brunetti. In “The Jewel of Paradis” Caterina Pellegrini, an opera expert from Manchester comes back to Venice to research the contents of trunks believed to have belonged to a renowned baroque composer, Agostino Steffani, so that his descendants can divide the estate.

This is one of the most difficult books I read in a long time. Ms Leons serves up so much historical detail, obscure names and subjects. It seemed this story showcases more the author knowledge in Italian, cultural events and classics in music and literature. So, if you are not into baroque opera you may find this story heavy, neither enjoyable nor interesting. 

There may be a mystery somewhere but the actual story line is so sparse and boring I was hoping for a quick ending….”This is definitely a paradise lost…..” I have no more to say……

"A Cast of Falcons", by Steve Burrows

A Cast of Falcons: A Birder Murder Mystery - Steve Burrows

A Birder Mystery book #3

As in his previous books, Mr. Burrows once again has skillfully integrated birds and birding as part of his plots and has brought the personal drama of his protagonist DCI Dominic Jejeune into a suspenseful mystery. 

A blurb:

“A man falling to his death from a remote cliff sets off a high-stakes chase for Inspector Dominic Jejeune, who pursues a ruthless killer knowing any misstep could bring down wrath from above on Dominic, his family, and the entire police force.

Meanwhile, Sergeant Danny Maik investigates the brutal murder of a researcher involved in a local climate change project.”

My thoughts:

The author uses all tools in his box to craft the perfect combination to make his mystery a joy to pass time with: such a dialogue, scene description and character development. We have two well-crafted plots, one center on researching carbon capture and sequestration and the other on falconry both are filled with suspense, unexpected twists and surprises from the start and are complex and interesting. Unfortunately the action is slow moving, keeps this pace throughout and is somewhat repetitive. Furthermore, the police procedural is totally off beat making this story a bit uneven but of course Jejeune is a transplanted Canadian an ex-pat in Norfolk trying to blend in….what more can I say….:) Dominic’s black sheep brother Damian makes an appearance and his contribution explains a lot why Dominic has such a strange behavior and is so reserved, really not what we would think of a policeman. Along the way we find out a little more about Danny Maik and Dominic’s relationship with Lindy, will this last…stay tuned.

Overall in terms of crimes, “A Cast of Falcons” has good mix of bird watching and investigating and as in great mystery the murderer is not unmasked until the very end. This series is quite original…..but may not be for everyone.

"D-Day Girls", by Sarah Rose

D-Day Girls - Sarah Rose

The spies who armed the resistance, sabotaged the Nazis, and helped win World War 11 

This is a dramatic true account of extraordinary women recruited by Britain who helped win the day on June 6, 1944 and pave the way for Allied victory.

Drawn from declassified files, diaries and oral histories, as per her notes, Ms. Rose did intensive research and has written a story of five remarkable women. These courageous women are Andrée Borrel, Odette Sansom, Lise de Baissan, Yvonne Rudellat and Mary Herbert. It is also the story of fearless men who worked by their side: Francis Suttill, Gilbert Norman, Peter Churchill and Claude de Baissic. Together, they destroyed train lines, ambushed Nazis, plotted prison breaks, and gathered crucial intelligence. Some never made it home.….

France and Environs 1940-1944.

Interesting:

A most heavy read, this account is a fascinating and important story not only of the women who worked as spies but also of the members of the resistance in France and the SOE (Secret Operations Executive) Office whose agents played key roles in the D-Day invasion. Sara Rose takes us on the dangerous journey they had to face in enemy territory. 

Not so much:

It is a hard book to get into, the narrative lacks some cohesion and something is lost in the way it is told. The story jumps from event to event, from person and person sometimes using their code names other times their real names all this with little warning. I found this distracting and mostly confusing. It also reads like it was thrown together, much unorganized, more like a history professor’s lecture notes, a person that wants to say a lot but doesn’t have time to do so. Staying focus was a challenge and I wanted to abandon this book many times but I persevered wanted to know who would make it home….

In Conclusion:

Writing a non-fiction is a daunting task. Ms. Rose has nevertheless provided us with an overall picture of the war and has supplemented her words with a lively bibliography at the end. This book is an addition to the WW11 histories and not meant to be an easy and quick read. 

I stay on the fence on this one. 

I received this ARC from Crown Publishing via NetGalleys for my thoughts

"The Sins of the Father", by Jeffrey Archer

The Sins of the Father - Jeffrey Archer

The Clifton Chronicles book #2

In this sequel to “Only Time Will Tell”, Mr. Archer continues the Clifton Chronicles with a plot-driven story that begins hastily with Harry Clifton in prison detailing his experiences after he had switched identities with Lt. Tom Bradshaw who died when his ship was sunk by a U-boat. Mr. Archer is a canny and experienced author that has made his sequel complete in itself without the benefit of what has happened before. Harry’s backstory really didn’t matter although I am glad to have read the first installment. I think it is always preferable to read series in sequence in order to understand the characters’ connections and what sparked the chain of events that follows. 

The story spans the years of World War 11 with the family drama of the Cliftons and the Barringtons continuing at top speed. This is an attention grabber from the start plunging us into the action, shifting points of views between 5 characters and peeling layers after layers of the story in every chapter. The narrative is divided into sections by character and we follow each one as the years move on during the war. All are strongly connected to Harry, the central character. The war is at the forefront and we have a few combat scenes which are vividly described and exciting. While, back in England the other characters are caught up in their own melodrama. It is quite captivating to follow them.

Mr. Archer puts a cunning twist in the very last paragraph…and, yes, we're left with another cliff-hanger, right at the end, as we're awaiting a decision from the House of Lords…..

Well now I need to read “Best Kept Secret” and not wait a year to do so…..I am curious to see what will come out of this family drama. 

"At Last", by John W. Mefford

AT Last (An Alex Troutt Thriller, Book 6) - John W. Mefford

Book #6, In Alex Trout and Redemption Thriller series

To enjoy this story I needed to put all sense of reality aside and let the action take hold and go for the ride, after all this is a thriller one of my favourite genre. Mr. Mefford has done it again and in my books “At Last” is the best one in this series by a long shot, so far….

Memories do more than haunt. They kill. Thirty years after losing a parent to a hit and run, Alex finally confronts the killer. The hunt takes her deep into the foothills of West Virginia… With Archie on board, Alex must out-think and out-smart a fanatical religious cult to get to the truth. 

This scenario will bring memories of Waco and those under the spell of fanatic leaders who brainwashed them. Known is that the followers suffered psychological abuse, sexual abuse, incest, torture…etc. all the while the Elders were stashing money away for a clean get away….Following Alex in her quest reminded me of the evils lurking in this world. It is so easy to be wrapped up in something when you are not happy. This story smoothly recreates the lives of those caught up in this terrible web and a daughter who will go to all means to get her mother back home. This story is an emotional journey hard to put aside…..

This 6th book gives us more information of how Alex grew up and why she is so determined to find her mother who may be alive and a member of a cult. 

The book starts fairly quickly and leads immediately into action and suspense, no doubts it is a grabber and a page-turner. Quite an intense scenario that is played out by a cast of great characters….Love this series and how it is slowly developing. 

Although this could be read as a standalone I highly suggest reading this series in sequence in order to follow Alex’s personal life.

Great series

"Thin Ice", by Nick Wilkshire

Thin Ice - Nick Wilkshire

“Thin Ice” is a suspenseful police procedural set in Ottawa and revolves around the murder investigation of a rookie hockey player recently signed by the Ottawa Raftsmen.

I enjoyed reading this story adding to the appeal is the setting, Ottawa is a rich and colourful city where hockey is way of life. This is a fast-pace and dialogue driven mystery that follows two homicides detectives Jack Smith and Dave Marshall on the tail of suspects when a young hockey superstar is murdered on a morning jog.

I was tuned in from the opening page and had a hard time putting this story down. The huge cast of suspects were intriguing characters, very different on their own but all had a connection with Curtis Ritchie, the hockey sensation. As the case moved on and the investigation intensified it is evident the author is a lawyer who excels in asking questions and twisting them around to get what he wants. The story has pretty interesting police procedural and dabs somewhat into the personal life of the protagonists. This story is well written with plot twists to detail us and a great ending hard to see coming. Good pacing all through and played out by interesting characters.

You don’t need to be a fan of hockey to enjoy this book. I am not by a long shot although being Canadian it was easy to make parallels with the NHL and the Ottawa Senators ….and the shenanigans going on….

"Never Let Go", by Elizabeth Goddard

Never Let Go (Uncommon Justice #1) - Elizabeth Goddard

Uncommon Justice Book # 1

The story premise is very intriguing it brings together Forensic genealogist Willow Anderson with Ex-FBI agent Austin McKade on a quest for answers regarding a baby’s abduction more than twenty years ago. The story is set against the stunning backdrop of Bridger-Teton National Forest region of Wyoming.

I am not a huge fan of romance but when suspense is thrown into a plot layered with twists hard to see coming it makes for a pretty good read. Well romance…the chemistry between Austin and Willow is hot and cold I really wanted to slap them to make a decision but again this is a necessity to show us how vulnerable relationships can be and how our past can interfere with our decisions to move forward. I like the way the author weaves in the backstory of her protagonists as the story progresses. It is also interesting to watch Willow and Austin piece together the decades of mystery behind this kidnapping. Following these two has kept me on the edge trying to see who was behind. Well it is a well-kept secret that is divulged only in the last pages. This is a story well done from its riveting opening to the satisfying conclusion…..

This fast-paced and emotional page-turner is my first experience reading Elizabeth Goddard and it will not be my last.

I received a copy of this book from Revell Books via NetGalleys for my thoughts

"Burn Rate", by Ty Patterson

Burn Rate (Zeb Carter #3) - Ty Patterson
Book # 3, in the Zeb Carter series

By weaving an exciting scenario along with his familiar characters, Mr. Patterson knows how to entertain us. “Burn Rate” is a suspenseful story created by an author with a fertile imagination. Zeb Carter and his warriors are on the trail of a terrorist who plans to kill all leaders at the G20 Summit. Leads bring them to Iran and the head of the security force is their target.

This thriller is fast and furious we have not time to catch our breath. It is action packed and very intriguing and suspenseful. We have situations in this story that are quite believable and some maybe farfetched but captivating to read. Zeb and his team do their notorious deeds and escaped unscathed …. Awe and this interesting story filled with clever twists and turns bring us to a dynamic ending…..The team did it again….outsmart the terrorists and the gang behind them….

Once again Ty Patterson wrote a white knuckle thriller that flows well and is played out by smart characters. We have incredible descriptions and amazing details everything is so vividly written you may forget this is a fiction. Well-done.
 
 

 

"Blue Water Horizon", by Glenn Trust

Blue Water Horizon (Blue Eyes #3) - Glenn Trust

Book#3, in the Blue Eyes series

Alice is on the move fleeing Las Vegas exchanging the hot desert sands for the cool ocean breeze of the Atlantic. Taking the name of Samantha she settles for a while in Digger Key, an isolate place with a shabby bar….. The Florida Keys will never be the same…..This 3rd story is as captivating as the 2 first were.

After two books, I knew our protagonist will do anything to help her new family. First she settles in, find a job, a home and makes friends that she will call her family. When Digger Key is treated by a predatory property developer Sam springs into action. As the story moves along and switches among the characters, we get deep inside the minds of each one. Of course the main focus is on Alice (Samantha). New players to enjoy and one important recurring one…Barent, her lover from Las Vegas who is tracking her down…but don’t expect too much here, the thread is barely developed leaving the door open….. 

This story does not disappoint, we are swiftly engulfed in a tug of war game between the good guys versus the bad guys in a scenario that is fast and filled with suspense and thrills. Alice is a well-developed and unforgettable character and how she pulls us in is surely where the author excels.

With its everyday language, a narration that flows smoothly and a cast of fun characters this can only be a page-turner and an easy read.

"A Desert View", by Glenn Trust

A Desert View (Blue Eyes #2) - Glenn Trust

Book #2, in the Blue Eyes Series

You definitely need to read book #1 first, “An Empty Tree/an Eye for Death”, the story is so intriguing I simply had to continue with book #2 right after, here I am telling you my thoughts on this one. An elusive, strong female leads the story and our protagonist is back in full force with a new identity and challenges. 

Alice Trent is a wanderer who conducts her life on the fringe of the law and unable to settle and have a true relationship. After her episode in the last novel Alice ends up in Las Vegas hoping for a new life. But life is not that smooth for our Alice, the business she works for is under a hostile takeover, her colleagues are not all keen to have her there and a cop gets too close to her. What is she getting herself into when she meets and makes a deal with a strong hand man to save Sol’s business…..eventually she needed to escape once more…. she is on the move again…..book #3 will tell us where.

Another great story filled with twists and turns and suspense. Alice is not your typical female character and her sort stay in Nevada was captivating, a story hard to put down. Lots goes on, not a dull moment from the opening page to the last I was kept on the edge all along trying to be a step ahead of Alice and guessing what she was up to even wondering if her cop friend will discover her true identity. 

“A Desert View”, is a wonderful relaxing adventure and perfect entertainment that flows smoothly and grabs you from the get-go.…. boy I will be reading book #3 next…..

Loved it….

"Templar Silks", by Elizabeth Chadwick

Templar Silks - Elizabeth Chadwick
In this historical fiction Ms. Chardwick sweeps us to medieval Jerusalem where William Marshal will go to save his soul but the greatest danger he will faces there is losing his heart.

The story moves back in forth between England, 1219, with William Marshal lying on his death bed looking back upon his long-ago pilgrimage with his brother Ancel to the Holy Land then it smoothly switches to Jerusalem, 1183, where the brothers get embroiled in deadly politics, devious scheming and lusts of the powerful people ruling the kingdom. Back and forth we go.

Although this is a glossed account of the time spent in Jerusalem during the calm before the death of King Baldwin, the author’s stunning grasp of historical details of this particular period of time has definitely helped to virtually fill the gaps in a time nothing is actually known. “Templar Silks” is probably more a fiction than anything else but is richly and brilliantly written nonetheless.

The style is formal but in modern English and to be authentic to the era and the court the author leaves the names of people and place in their original French. The factual and factious elements sit together with ease giving the feel that what you read has actually happened. Although this book is set during the Holy Wars, the story is not filled with battles but more with small personal ones. Religion at that time was the backbone of Marshal’s world and he truly believes he will be damned for his actions. He needs to atone for his sins and find his path for the future….this is his final story, he died at age 72. The author is at her best describing Marshal himself and his relationship with his brother, in the ways she depicts the Templar as men of God, how she sets the political situation and plunges her protagonist in a dangerous romance…..

“The Templar Silks” is well said but I found it to be long and the many repetitive scenes did not move the narrative forward…..much too slow for my taste but an excellent read nevertheless.

My thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark and Netgalleys for this ARC.

This title was previously released by Sphere (Feb.27,2018) 

 
 

 

"At the Mountain Edge", by Genevieve Graham

At the Mountain's Edge - Genevieve Graham

This historical novel is an epic tale of romance and adventure about two people who must let go of the past not only to be together, but also to survive. Set during the Klondike Gold Rush we are swept into a drama of love, tragedy and redemption.

In 1897 gold rush has reached the Canadian wilderness and thousands of prospectors swarm to the North seeking riches. Dawson City, Yukon was their destination but to get there was not an easy endeavor. This story will bring our main protagonist, Liza Patterson, and her family to establish their business in this terribly cold city overrun with guns, liquor, prostitutes and thieves. As for our second main player, recent recruit Constable Ben Turner from North-West Mountain Police will uphold the law….”At the Mountain’s Edge” tells how in order to reach Dawson City they all had to climb harsh trails and survive an excruciating journey for weeks before reaching their destination. But most of this entire exhausting story will tell us how they faced every form of catastrophe and managed to survive in a crude and hostile environment. 

The author has combined historical events along some thrills with a wee bit of romance for our enjoyment. Vividly written with a modern twist to it, this story dives straight into the time of the Klondike Gold Rush and propels us in the middle of the action with expert knowledge. The events are accurately recounted showing Ms. Graham spent enormous time researching her subject matter but unfortunately the descriptions just scratched the surface. “At The Mountain Edge" is somewhat of a fluffy story but one that could pique some to look deeper into those who dreamed of making big ….The story is well played out by two charming characters…..awe and there is love in the air….

This is a good story but it wasn’t the page-turner I had wished for. 

I received this ARC from the Publisher Simon and Schuster via Netgalleys for my thoughts.