Toni

The way I see it

"Finding Grace:Captured by a Cult", by Warren Adler

Finding Grace: Captured by a Cult - Warren Adler

What would you do if your loveable child is in the clutches of a notorious cult? Would you question yourself: where did we go wrong, was our child unhappy, did our chattered life had a terrible effect on her…etc. a million questions and very few answers….The novel gets to the heart of brainwashing and its power to control. It also highlights how far parents will go to get their child back, even if that child is an adult.

Mr. Adler is a master in creating drama with visual scenes and building upon relationships. At first blush, the book seemed to be of Grace and the parental attempts to find her but it soon morphed into an overwhelming sexual obsession between two self-centered characters: Harry and Paulie, Grace divorced parents. The story jumps back and forth from the present and go back in time as the characters often reminisce about their life together. At one point, their romance is rekindled and this completely takes over the plot. These two characters did not fully won my heart… but their quest and the drastic measures taken to turn Grace around and bring her home is where this story excels in delivering its message.

This easy and fast read set some decades ago moderately dabbles into the cult mindset and their persuasion techniques. Although the premise is more about the efforts and courage needed to find and bring Grace back home we nevertheless have a look at this young woman who has been sucked into a cult and is now under their firm grasp. 

As with all of Mr. Adler’s work, the narration flows smoothly and his powerful prose leaves a whirlwind of emotions. After-all having your child under the spell of mind control who shuns your love can only be but devastating. 

An emotional read 

"Casino Havana", by Graham Tempest

Casino Havana: An Oliver Steele Thriller - Graham Tempest

Book # 5, an Oliver Steele Thriller

In this latest our intrepid forensic accountant is tasked with another mission this time to Cuba he goes to find a friend, who was kidnapped and put in prison. 

This is another suspenseful story in the Casino series hard to put down. Mr. Tempest creates interesting intrigues that pulls you in and manages to keep you captivated till his protagonist wraps up his mission. This one reads more like an espionage thriller than a mystery. The Castro era is winding down, Cuba is in a process of a big political change and officials are jockeying for position but some are very corrupted, Oliver must tread the line very carefully.

The story keeps a steady pace, is exciting and full of red herrings especially when Oliver mounts an attack on an island prison trying to reach his friend .Throughout this nail biting journey, one crisis after another happens to our loveable adventurer. Along the way we have details of old style Cuba, its 1920’s music and how things were then and how things are since the Castro era. Recurring characters from previous adventures are weaved in to show us that Oliver still has to deal with bribery and intimidation at every turn. No dull moment with Oliver. 

“Casino Havana”, has an interesting and well-written plot with good characterization and is an enjoyable entertainment from cover to cover.

"Gaslight", by Mark Dawson

Gaslight - Mark  Dawson

Book #0.5 in the Soho Noir series

A 65 pages novella, a prequel to the earlier published works “The Imposter and The Black Mile.

The story is moody and vivid but it is too short and too thin but the biggest disappointment is that it leaves you hanging and wanting more. Like most short stories “Gaslight” has its flaws but it is worth the time reading it.

What pushed me to download this book: simple I am a huge fan. Mr. Dawson usually writes exciting stories that lures you in and keeps you interested till you reach the end and why not at the time the book was offered free of charges.

Here he set the stage to post war London 1920, his main characters are two brothers, Harry and Frank Costello who burgle house to supplement their incomes. Mr. Dawson even in his short story never misses the mark in creating the right atmosphere. His vivid prose paints a picture of the seedier side of London’s life, its crime elements and the poorer quarters with ease. But it ends too abruptly for me. This story is more of a teaser…..

"The Westhampton Scare", by Gerald J. Kubicki and Kristopher Kubicki

The Westhampton Scare: Colton Banyon Mystery #28 - Kristopher Kubicki, Gerald J. Kubicki

Book#28, in the Colton Banyon Mystery

Although this may be the 28th book it is just the 2nd bringing us back in time when Colton was a young man. The year is 1968 and Colton just finished his sophomore year at college and was home for the summer working at a restaurant along with some of his friends.

Using the same pattern he always does, Mr. Kubicki starts with an interesting prologue and a bit of history then he swiftly moves to the core of his mystery. I really love this new approach, a good storyline that moves along a good pace with plenty of suspense. The book is fun to read and not taxing at all, we can easily read it in no time. Making Colt and his friend trespass on some secret government land where a nuclear missile went missing gives us just enough intrigue to keep turning the pages, to boot a Russian sleeper cell lurks around the corner….a recovery search spearheaded by a sexy Major is teasing our teens and the wild ride through Westhampton can only make “The Westhampton Scare” a very captivating read. 

After reading all but one book written by the Kubicki I noticed a great change in style that I appreciate: out with the ridiculous fantasies, out with the over-sexed dim-wits and more concentration on a solid and good storyline. Well-done.

"Crypt of Bones", by J.F. Penn

Crypt of Bone: An ARKANE Thriller Book 2J (Volume 2) - J.F. Penn

Also published under the title “Prophecy”

Book#2, in the Arkane series

In her books Miss Penn uses her vast knowledge in theology to create great stories with a healthy dose of action and intrigue. This second episode picks up sometime after the conclusion of “Stone of Fire” (Pentecost) with Dr. Morgan Sierra investigating supernatural phenomenon in a religious context. 

Where to begin when the rich narrative keeps you so stitched to the story you even forget where you are. Well I am guilty of doing this; I was so immersed in this intriguing subject that for moments I thought I was part of it. This is not a boring book, too much adrenaline flows while you heart pounds turning the pages.

The story in a blurb

“Dr. Morgan Sierra travels to Israel to investigate the deaths of victims of the Jerusalem Syndrome and becomes embroiled in an international conspiracy that will use cutting-edge technology to carry an ancient curse to mankind, and threaten those she loves. Morgan joins agent Jake Timber to investigate the supernatural”.

Each book has a different setting actually it is a kind of travelogue in exotic locations. As the action moves swiftly into a wonderful blend of the real world with one of fiction we follow the protagonists to Israel, France, Italy and the Czech Republic .There are no dull moments in this race against a shadowy organization. At time I wondered if Morgan will survive or come out in one piece but again she is the main character and after all needed in subsequent novels. Evil characters Ms. Penn excel in developing them, not mentioning that her main players are memorable and brilliantly conceived. 

This is not my first experience reading this author and her style has grown on me through the times. Although I haven’t read the book in sequence I did read a few already and each have stood well on their own. I must catch up and fill the void….you always learn something reading Ms. Penn’s books.

This is a tantalizing thriller that will pull you in right from the start.

"Defending Cain", by Ty Patterson

Defending Cain (Gemini Series Book 2) - Ty Patterson

Book #2, in the Gemini series

This series is a spin off to the main series “The Warriors”. 

“Defending Cain” is the second role played by twin sisters Beth and Meghan Peterson as main characters. The twins in this episode will get involved in a search for Calliope Minter, missing and presumed killed by Cain, a vicious serial killer who is terrorizing New York.

Of course those who are fan of Mr. Patterson will know that the story will feature kick ass players, ones who will provide never ending action to entertain us till the very last words. To keep us captive and turning pages, the author never forgets to weave some kind of conspiracy into his unique and complex scenarios. The story is never a single story, multiple threads will eventually connect but meanwhile we are kept on our toes. This latest is a thrilling ride from the beginning to the end. I agree this is another brain teaser that brings layers of clues, many red-herrings and many dead ends…..

Again no fancy style here, words are rather plain and down to earth, the characters are good but not out of the ordinary, the story line may be over the top for some but I found it quite entertaining. Looking forward to see what comes up next.

"At Large", by John W. Mefford

AT Large (An Alex Troutt Thriller, Book 2) - John W. Mefford

Book #2, in the Alex Troutt Thriller series 

This book can definitely be a stand-alone but I would suggest reading “At Bay” book 1 first so you can better place the characters and where they come from. 

Mr. Mefford writes novels full of intrigue, suspense and thrills and undeniably his style will evoke an emotional connection to his characters. In “At large” Alex is thrust into a bizarre string of murders. She partners with a CIA counterpart and together they chase a killer up and down the east coast. Victims are both male and female but how are they connected and what is the killer’s end game….. 

Alex Trout is an intrepid character, while fighting her internal demons this FBI Agent entertains us with non-stop action while the investigation goes on and more mutilated bodies pile up. Yes, the story goes on at a rapid pace, is rather graphic, has a decent language and a pretty good plotline to entertain us. What it does best is keeping us on our toes: guessing who may be next, wondering if Alex is up to the task and will she get her man…..or will he get the better of her….The story is well-crafted but isn’t memorable, soon read soon forgotten…but so much fun to read.

Entertaining 

"Emilia", by Ellie Midwood

Emilia - Ellie Midwood
The darkest days in the history of Nazi Germany through a woman’s eyes

Reading about the atrocities during WW11 is never an easy read. Of course Emilia story is severe and at times even horrific nevertheless it is compelling account of a life under the Nazi regime. This is a fiction where the author has poetic license and uses it quite well, focusing only on the Nazi atrocities.

This powerful story takes us on a journey of lost innocence, hardening hearts and finding love as we follow a young girl wishing for a normal life, only to be sent to a concentration camp, finally liberated at the end of the war and a few years later finding peace. Emilia tells the darkest tale honestly drawing us into her harrowing life, a life that countless victims were subject to. What a nightmare she tells, page after page of horror: rape, abuse, sadistic handlers at every corner. All the while this young woman was desperately trying to survive. The description of what was done on the population in the camps is very graphic and will undeniably touch the reader’s emotions. Of course this book is sad and hard but the story is so well-written without any fluff and long prose and is said with such frankness and raw emotions that I found it very hard to pause and stay away from this wonderful story of survival for too long. Excellent. 

I received this ARC for review from the Publisher Ellie Midwood via Netgalleys
 
 

 

"Munich", by Robert Harris

Munich: A novel - Robert Harris
This novel is set over four days during the September 1938 Munich Conference where an agreement was signed between Hitler, Mussolini, Chamberlain and Daladier to settle the fate of Czechoslovakia. 

“Munich” is a tantalising game of “what if” and a glimpse on how things might have turned out. The story is told through the eyes of two men who were friends at Oxford but are now in opposite camps. The main players are Hugh Legat, private secretary to Chamberlain and Paul Hartmann, a diplomat in the German foreign office. With a unique style, Mr. Harris skilfully weaves a gripping fiction with historical events and looks at those four days from both sides. Taking us behind close door is quite an achievement especially when taking something well documented and showing us something else. In this dramatization, both Legat and Hartman’s machinations affect the course of history. 

The story is quite slow to start with. The first third of the book is hugging the actual facts with grave-faced men coming in and out of their offices and minutia details involving the procedural of the two parties as they navigate the diplomatic path towards the summit at which the Sudetenland would be handed back to Germany. In the later part, when the dual plotline converges and we inch closer to the center of powers we discover Hitler’s true agenda….and more melodramatic scenes occur giving “Munich” a tad of suspense. Even with some excitement the story never reach the level of a high-octane page-turner I love to read. The tale nevertheless brilliantly evokes a sense of place and its vivid descriptions leading to the main event highlight why Mr. Harris is a master novelist who focuses on events surrounding the Second World War.

I received this ARC for review from Penguin Random House Canada via Netgalleys
 
 

 

"The Shadow", by Ty Patterson

The Shadow: Action Suspense Thriller (Warriors Series Shorts Book 3) - Ty Patterson

“Book #3, in the Warriors shorts

This 3rd novella is a fast-paced adventure filled with action introducing two wonderful characters Bear and Chloe. These two have charmed and entertained us numerous times in the main series “The Warriors”. It was nice to see where they came from, how they met and when they joined the elite group lead by Zeb Carter. 

Bear is hired to protect a high profile criminal, a routine job….or so he thought. Excellent storyline of only 56 pages, packed with never ending action, suspense galore….and of course captivating to no end. Mr. Patterson knows how to tell a story in ways that can only hold us captive till the last page. This novella compliments beautifully the main series.

I never was one for short stories till I received novellas from Mr. Patterson they are tremendously well-done…….

"The Bookworm", by Mitch Silver

The Bookworm: A Novel - Mitch Silver

This story is a bit of everything, a mystery at its base, a tad of political shenanigan to captivate us, some known historical figures to pique our interest (Kennedy, Hitler, Churchill and the French physician Nostradamus) oh…to put a smile on our faces, thinly disguised are our 2 maverick and colourful leaders in a cameo role. To top it all off which is the base of this novel is a conspiracy to keeps us on our toes. With a soupçon of reality and a big dose of fiction we have one ambitious novel that should please most readers.

The setting mainly plays out in Moscow but changes locations between London and Alaska. The mystery features Larissa Klimt, who is a professor of Geopolitical History and her twin brother Lev, who works in Alaska monitoring the oil fields. The plot comes to life when Lara (Larissa) is asked to translate six audio recordings done in the 1940’s from English to Russian and find the book, subject of the recordings. What she hears is just the beginning of her troubles…the book (Bible) contains a false prophecy of all time. Through a series of circumstances Lara and Lev become entwined in the hoax and are pulled into danger and the world of espionage…..

I have mixed feeling about this book. In great parts I liked it a lot and in others I found it dragged so much I was losing interest. It took too much time to get going although I do admit lots was happening but everything seemed to turn in circle then suddenly action and suspense kicked in and voilà you just reached the end. As for the characters they missed colours but were OK in their roles but lacked the credibility and motive to push the mystery forward and make it captivating. I liked the premise, the story is great and interesting and some of the side bars are also very good “ the Bookworm mystery”, “Conception Day”, “King takes Queen”, Lara’s events with her ex-husband the Russian spy just to mention some…..(I let you discover all this). 

This novel may not have been my favourite of all times but it was worthwhile passing time reading it nevertheless. 

I received this ARC for review from Pegasus Books via Netgalleys 

"The Watcher", by Ty Patterson

The Watcher: Action Suspense Thriller (Warriors Series Shorts Book 2) - Ty Patterson

Book #2, in the Warriors shorts

This second story may be short 52 pages or so but is packed with suspense from the opening page and keeps us glued to every word till its final sentence. Zeb Carter is in poverty stricken area of Cape Town, South Africa when he is approached by a child…. a gang is harassing his family, he needs help …. 

Of course this is a fast read, action packed and well- written. It has a very interesting subject matter around drugs and child trafficking organisations and a warrior to save the day. This short story fits well between the main Warriors series and I enjoy squeezing it in my spare time. Till next time “In the Shadow”, enjoy…

"The Shining", by Stephen King

The Shining - Stephen King

The Shining #1

“The Shining” is the story of Jack Torrance, who is employed as the caretaker of the gargantuan Overlook Hotel in Colorado one winter. With his wife and son they hoped to spend the winter season in peace and stitch up their fractured family.

The book was first released in 1977 then made into a movie starring Jack Nicholson, just the best choice to play the main character here. I haven’t seen the movie but in the book Mr. King goes to great pains to show Jack as a good man that is simply pushed into fantasy or hallucination. Because I received its sequel “Doctor Sleep” as a gift I needed to know how this horror all started.

For 416 pages, the tense and atmospheric story centers on the family saga. Their encounters with apparitions are very visual, leaving a picture in the mind that may be scary for some and totally ridicule for others. Not only it is a very dark story, with every turn of the page things get worse and worse in the haunted resort, it also borders on the fantastical with plenty of over the top scenes rife with violence and supernatural. For some, Mr. King may be a master entertainer no matter how ridiculous his tales are or how frightening they may be, well perhaps for them but this horror did not gel with me, I simply had trouble getting through this mess. The author gets so bogged down in tedious descriptions and exposition, the story is so overwritten I fast lost interest. Don’t forget, pay attention, not only does the narration rotates between the three members of the Torrance family it is also taken over by many other characters, some human and some not so human. 

I didn’t think this book was scary at all despite the considerably large cast of ghosts and creepy critters and the great amount of violence at every page. This is a tedious read, it just drags on and on, so stubborn was I nevertheless made it to the end even if I was bored to death…..evidently not my type of book. 

"Zulu Hours", by Ty Patterson

Zulu Hour: Action Suspense Thriller (Warriors Series Shorts Book 1) - Ty Patterson
Book #1, in the Warriors shorts

“Zulu Hours” is the first in a series of short stories featuring Zeb Carter and is definitely a prequel to the main Warriors Series.

I always said I wasn’t a fan of short stories but here I stand corrected. 49 pages of brilliantly writing and engaging storyline that bring us back to where it all started. If you are already familiar with the Warriors series reading this prequel will answer most of your questions. If you want to start at this point, this book will give you a sample of what to expect and all you need to go forward.

Even with 49 pages we have a good storyline filled with action and great characters. We find out how Zeb’s group came together and how with Broker became important assets to the Agency. 

1993, Mogadishu, Delta Force operative Zeb Carter meets Mohammed Jama, a vicious warlord…..and the action moves on from there….
 
 

 

"Prussian Blue", by Philip Kerr

Prussian Blue (A Bernie Gunther Novel) - Philip Kerr

Book# 12, in the Bernie Gunther Mysteries

This story moves back and forth between Nazi Germany in 1939 and the French Riviera in 1956. We follow Gunther match wits with German officials in two suspenseful stories that at first seemed to go their own ways but meshes nicely by the end. Mr. Kerr brings once again a renewed life to the monsters of the Nazi era and at the same time gives us a thrilling adventure, a deadly cat and mouse game in the French countryside….

Nothing is more frustrating for a cop with a conscience than to work under the Nazis and not end up in prison. “Prussian Blue”, swings around between a plot that trails the reluctant Gunther’s from France in the 50’s being pursued by his old enemies of the Reich, narrowly escaping the noose by doing dirty deeds to save himself. Then the plot brings Gunther to the days when he worked for Martin Bormann to clean up a messy situation at Hitler’s vacation home before he shows up for his birthday celebration in a week. The two plots go back and forth.

Mr. Kerr has a real talent in capturing the mood and misdeeds and once again brilliantly created a whodunit to bring the horrors of life during the Nazi’s regime. The shrewd and acute interpretations of facts blended with fiction makes for a believable depiction. The research and the accuracy of the historical setting can only match the best of the best authors; Mr. Kerr is definitely a master. I am a huge fan of Bernie Gunther and have devoured in gulps of fright and pleasure all of them to date. The plot is an entertaining adventure that takes in high crime, scandals, fraud, drugs and murder and features one of the most successful anti-heroes in crime fiction, Bernie Gunther: a WW1 veteran, a Kripo detective during WW11 who now roams the world like a wanted criminal. Gunther is not a young man how long can he stick around….only Mr. Kerr knows…but in the meantime I will be faithful to him….

I like this book but on the down side, although the pacing is steady it lacks the suspense I was hoping for. It is a bit overwritten, descriptions of people and places and long paragraphs stretch the plot over many pages unnecessary, making a meaty book to read. 

Good story but not one at the top of my list

"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. 

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