Toni

The way I see it

"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……

"The Policewoman", by Justin W.M. Roberts

The Policewoman - Justin W. M. Roberts
Set in not so far distance Mr. Roberts’ novel paints a world with dramatic, over the top action that will impact our imagination long after we finished the last page. In “The Policewoman” we are in a world controlled by drug cartel and it takes the most dedicated officers to face them and put an end to their operation.

Sarah, the protagonist, is a special operative and a heroine in this most brutal tale. She is working in an antiterrorist task force that doesn’t take any prisoners. She has been reassigned to aid in taking down the most notorious drug groups: the Irish cartel….As we follow Sarah we are sent on a tailspin race …..

This story must have taken a huge amount of research to make this engaging story. Filled with details the author spares no words. He is meticulously thorough with the characters’ dialects and local flavour. Apparent in the narrative is the author’s tactical knowledge and his Special Forces background which pepper the pages and makes the entire story quite believable (maybe a bit too much acronyms and info –dumping). The plot line is excellent with terrifying twists to send shivers up our spine from time to time. This is a fantastic fast pace story with well-developed characters. What makes this thriller even more riveting is how the author keeps Sarah running into danger. We do have romance, death and heartbreaking moments but the action is the driving force that makes this book engaging.

“The Policewoman” is a page-turner that has kept me on the edge from the opening page. Mr. Roberts’ debut novel is definitely a winner.

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

 

"Algonquin Sunset", by Rick Revelle

Algonquin Sunset: An Algonquin Quest Novel (An Algonguin Quest Novel) - Rick Revelle

Book #3, in the Algonquin Quest series

If you are interested in Algonquin history this series brings to life an era rarely written about. Inspired by his own heritage Mr. Revelle provides an accurate description of indigenous life in North America prior to contact with Europeans. The story unfolds in the early 1300’s and is told with an authentic indigenous languages sprinkled throughout. In addition, the Anishinaabe, Mi’kmag, Mohawk cultures, histories and traditions are explored.

Although the book is fiction, according to the author the way the characters live, hunt, harvest, their survival techniques and unique warfare are as accurate as he found during his long hours of research. In “Algonquin Sunset” two native tribes are introduced: the Anishinaabe and the powerful Lakhota. In alternate first person narratives, we follow Anoki, Zhashagi and Waste on their day to day life in a harsh land where they will encounter fierce enemy. The story is full of details of hunting, meal preparation, vision, moving camp and some characters go into long bouts of storytelling making the experience engaging. This novel is not character driven but rather an interesting recreation of Native American life. As I read the book, I had a very realistic feel and a sense of just how Aboriginal people lived, struggled to have enough to eat, keep warm and dry and the need to be alert to the constant threat of enemies.

Although it is always preferable to read series in sequence I did not feel lost to have started here. I melted right into the depiction of Algonquin life. It is so sad that so much knowledge of First Nations culture was lost as a result of residential schools….

I received this ARC for review from Dundurn.com via Netgalleys

"Do not Say We have Nothing" by Madeleine Thien

Do Not Say We Have Nothing: A Novel - Madeleine Thien

“Do Not Say We Have Nothing” is a moving story of musicians who suffered during and after China’s Cultural Revolution. Jiang Li-Ling, the narrator speaks to us from the present day telling us about her father, a brilliant musician, who committed suicide in Hong Kong when she was a little girl.

In Ms. Thien’s novel there is so much going on it is easy to get lost trying to keep track of the people and movements in order to keep everything straight. The numerous details and complexity of the book’s structure gives us an idea what we are up against. Part one: contains eight sequential chapters, Part Zero: seven chapters in reversed order from seven to one, followed by a coda to conclude. A real mishmash…..

At its heart, the novel explores the history of two families while examining the love of musicians in 20th century China, the effect of political changes which had terrible effects on the people. But it doesn’t stay there and to complicate things added into the mix are coded stories from a novel called Book of Records. Time shifts back and forth within chapters weaving back to China’s civil war and up to the present day and shuffling between characters. The story spans some six decades, so don’t blink an eye this novel needs our entire attention, so much is said. To top it all, throughout the novel language is central: English, Mandarin, Chinese and music plays a good part. This is definitely an exhausting read.

No doubt Ms. Thien did extensive research to masterfully layer a story within a story and pen this kind of demanding novel that is full of scenes that linger in our imagination long after the closing page. Ex: the student-led demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989. The author vividly describes those scenes with passion.

Some will love this novel for its riveting and lyrical phrases and other will find the experience confusing, disjointed and very-long. Although I made it to the end I admit to have struggled all through….At this time, I sit on the fence ….looking more towards the ground….

"Bird's Eye View", by Elinor Florence

Bird's Eye View - Elinor Florence
Relatively little has been written about the role Canadian women played during WW11, the author sheds light with her first novel. “Birds Eye View” tells the story of Rose Jollife, a young woman from Saskatchewan whose town becomes an air training base.

This novel is more than an historical fiction for addicts. Its alluring storyline, rich prose, vivid description and captivating pace have kept me glued to every word till I reached the final chapter. The protagonist is a Canadian woman in uniform. Although, Rose is a fictional character and the town of Touchwood is a creation the events are factual. Rose joins the air force travels overseas and becomes an interpreter of aerial photographs. This is her story seen through Canadian eyes…..

Ms. Florence describes the prairies beautifully some will certainly recognized the landscape and the setting as North Battleford the actual location for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Throughout the war Rose has a bird’s eye view of the Canadian experience – at Dieppe, in the skies over Germany, on the beaches of Normandy and when Canada shared in the Allied victory. Reading her experiences is so captivating I thought I was there with her bending over photographs searching for details that don’t belong…..

To make this story as historically accurate as possible the author has definitely did an enormous amount of research and has succeeded in penning one of those captivating war story that honours a group of forgotten heroes.

This gem of historical fiction is an excellent read one that should please any historical buffs.

I received this ARC for review from Dundurn.com via Netgalleys
 
 

 

"Goodnight from London", by Jennifer Robson

Goodnight from London: A Novel - Jennifer Robson

Ms. Robson historical fiction was inspired by the memoirs of her grandmother Myra Moir, a reporter, who worked on the women’s pages of the News-Herald. The author in her latest will transport us to London in the midst of the Blitzkrieg.

1940, American journalist Ruby Sutton gets her big break and moves to London to report on the Second World War as a staff member for Picture Weekly. But life in besieged Britain will test Ruby in ways unimaginable.

In a heartbeat I was immersed in a women’s fiction with strong romantic elements and fascinating accounts of life in England. The protagonist profession is a true part of the story I enjoyed particularly. It was much more than a simple filler, it was an excellent exploration of journalism as it was during that time: daring interviews nicely depicted. While in London, Ruby forms bonds with many friends and depends on their kindness to keep her going and since “Goodnight from London “is a mix of suspense and romance of course what else can we expect but to have Ruby fall for a captain in the military….. awe….Their romance was sweet and engaging as it slowly moved forward.

Ruby is one of those gutsy heroines that caught my interest from the first page, joining her is the slew of supporting cast that are equally captivating. It surely helps that they are likable characters. The authors’ prose and research shines through and it is easy to be pulled in especially when the ravished city is so expertly described. Closing each chapter are bits and pieces of articles that Ruby writes the words start by ”Dispatched from London by Miss Ruby Sutton” and her article is dated…..

This is a cozy and enjoyable read

I received a complimentary copy from HarperCollins through the Earlier Reviewer Program.

"The Dubious Sim Team", by Gerald J. Kubicki and Kristopher Kubicki

The Dubious SIM Team: Colton Banyon Mystery  #26 - Kristopher Kubicki, Gerald J. Kubicki

Book # 26, in the Colton Banyon Mystery series

A more descriptive title to this mystery should be a fantasy/ science fiction venture. It all started million years ago when the world was populated with blue warriors, had intergalactic space ship, laser swords and gravity transport. The Sumi has been defeated and dangerous weapons are on demand. The Sim team has been tasked to find them. But they are not the only one after the deadly things.

This story happens after the “Sumi Collision”. I agree it is better to know the previous saga to understand this latest.

The story is a bit confusing with its collection of players SIM, Mafia warlords, the FBI, the fire department, the Effort…etc. all wanted to possess those laser swords and each will go to any length to be the first to get them. The main reason to read the previous installment is to put everyone into perspective. Of course the team is running out of time, Colton wants to destroy them, others want to keep them and Colton’s team struggles to find them.

The story is interesting with lots of fantasy, some history and is mostly a mystery that fits well in the series. The characterization is original and charming. The style is definitely not great literature but the simple and funny narrative makes the experience a good one. This series is a great escapism to reality…

I received a copy of this book from the author and I am happy to add it to my collection

"Dividing Zero", by Ty Patterson

Dividing Zero - Ty Patterson

eived from the author and glad to add it to Book #1, in the Gemini series

This spin off of the Warrior series features Beth and Meghan Petersen the two kick ass twin sisters who will be working for a deep black agency putting their lives on the line in the shadowy world of counter-terrorism. Their first mission in the leading rolls will be very unusual…..Their client is an eight year old girl.

All the books from Mr. Patterson have been action packed, no exception here. Beth and Meghan lead us into maze of twists and turns where nothing is as it seems. Once again I was into an exciting scenario that smoothly pulled me in and I stay hooked till the very last words. The storyline flows fast and furious and sleekly give a thrilling ride from start to finish. Zeb and the team do have minor roles but this time all eyes are on the sisters. This adventure is captivating, although simple is well-written to give the needed punch to keep us glued and flipping pages. As always, we find a thoughtful plot with well-developed characters. Nothing fancy just plain fun.

200 pages or so of entertainment is definitely not a taxing read. This is another book I am happy to have received from the author and glad to add it to my collection.my collection.

"The Trout", by Peter Cunningham

The Trout: A Novel - Peter Cunningham

This is a well-crafted crisply written, gripping story of one man search for the crucial secret locked in his memory since childhood and the ability of whole societies to deny the evidence of their eyes.

When writer Alex Smyth receives a letter at his home in rural Bayport Ontario containing only a fishing lure, unsettling childhood memories are triggered. Alex thinks he may have killed another boy when he was seven, he then decides to return to Ireland to seek answers from his father.

Alex is the narrator and recounts events from both a child’s and an adult’s perspective. His voice is gentle almost mesmerizing it is easy to adapt to his tone. As the tale unfolds, the author artfully spins several stories at once: Ex: when Kay, Alex’s wife, alone has doubts about their marriage and has fears of a stalker we are into some interesting interludes.

It takes time to connect with the characters but when several layers of tension are introduced and memories crisscrossed with the present they immediately become accessible. The short chapters and a credible narrative keep the pages turning and the pacing holds up to the tension beautifully when it picks up. Serving simply as a metaphor and to provide a connecting thread in this delicate and powerful tale, the author has intercepted his narrative with brief and cogent paragraphs with the art of fly-fishing and its pursuit of the trout. (Interesting).

I had a hard time getting into this psychological thriller and staying focused during the initial section, it drags too much as it recounts the couple peaceful existence in Canada till mid-way threatened by Alex’s visions everything meshed and I understood where the author was leading. From then on I was hooked.

The last half of the book reveals the monstrous crime that took place in a country populated by good people who are conscious of the truth but prefer to leave it deep beneath the surface till one day they uncover the truth….it burst to light like the beautiful trout....

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss

"Aleutian Grave", by William Doonan

Aleutian Grave - William Doonan

Book #4, in the Henry Grave series

With “Aleutian Grave” began my first experience both with the author and this series. I do preferred reading books in sequence, but at the time I simply judged the synopsis to answer my tastes and voilà without a second thought it was added to my library. Having done so did not remove any enjoyment I slipped nicely into a deferent kind of mystery and a very enjoyable one indeed.

Henry Grave is an elderly private investigator, an engaging and very unique 85 year old who works for the Association of Cruising Vessel Operators. Henry is very charming and eccentric fellow with a passion for food and liquor which he consumes a lot. Because of his advance age people underestimates his capabilities especially when he is loaded to the gills. But beware Henry is a hell of an investigator and will get to the bottom of any mystery.

In this installment the Russian ship falls prey to strange happenings: it started with the murder of Rose DeSilva, a cabaret dance, who was stabled to death and cannibalised. As the story moves on nicely, the ship falls prey to more treats and Henry navigates with skills the Aleutian myths that thrive on all decks of the Arctic cruise ship. “The Windigo” …..

As I was reading, the tone reminded me of “Dragnet “and its characters: slow and deep voice. The plot line is thin but is fun to read, humorous mostly although silly at times, rather entertaining most of the time and definitely worth spending time with if you like a refreshing change from most murder mysteries on the shelves these days.

This is an entertaining read not to take too seriously….

"King Peso", by Carmen Amato

King Peso: An Emilia Cruz Novel - Carmen Amato
Book # 4, in the Emilia Cruz Mysteries

If you like reading Police Procedural novels with a hint of romance and a dose of mystery, you will be well served and especially quite entertained with Detective Emilia Cruz sagas all taking place in beautiful Acapulco. A city with two faces: one for tourist and one to be fought over by drug cartels, hookers and thieves.

In this 4th installment, Emilia’s fellow detectives want her gone and the drug cartel her hide but she can take the heat, she is a smart cookie. There’s a cop killer on the loose and having worked with all of the victims Emilia takes this very personally.

Told from the protagonist deep views in a tough language with a sprinkling of Spanish words and good Mexican food we follow Emilia recently reassigned to an all-female squad. But a Detective is always a detective while performing her new duties at heart she plots out every clue, every connection to find out who was involved in the killing of her colleagues. All through the story we have sharp edged exchanges between Emilia and her partner Silvio, that grudging respect seem to never end, so is her steamy but rocky relationship with Kurt Rucker.

Although, the story is definitely focused on interpersonal relationships more than forensics “King Peso”, is nevertheless a captivating and a gripping mystery, quite a page turner and very hard to put down. Emilia is a well-rounded, fast thinking and very enjoyable character. The good guys and the bad guys are vividly painted and each fulfills beautifully their act. The characterization is strong and interesting. The style is easy to follow: clear and concise narration. The plot is not taxing one that keeps a steady pace with some twists and of course ends by luring us to the next saga “Pacific Reaper”.

Not being a challenging read, I really enjoyed “King Peso”, it was a nice break.
 
 

 

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