Monday, November 16, 2009

Philippa Gregory - The Other Queen

Biographers often neglect the captive years of Mary, Queen of Scots, who trusted Queen Elizabeth's promise of sanctuary when she fled from rebels in Scotland and then found herself imprisoned as the "guest" of George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, and his indominable wife, Bess of Hardwick.

The newly married couple welcome the doomed queen into their home, certain that serving as her hosts and jailers will bring them an advantage in the cutthroat world of the Elizabethan court. To their horror, they find that the task will bankrupt them, and as their home becomes the epicenter of intrigue and rebellion against Elizabeth, their loyalty to each other and to their sovereign comes into question.
If Mary succeeds in seducing the earl into her own web of treachery and treason, or if the great spymaster William Cecil links them to the growing conspiracy to free Mary from her illegal imprisonment, they will all face the headsman.


The Other Queen received a lot of mixed reviews and I have to agree, the first third of the book I struggled myself. Although I really liked the multiple-viewpoint technique in The Other Boleyn Girl I found it difficult to get into with The Other Queen.
Later however I began enjoying the book and almost feeling sad to already know it's ending. As the books description mentions the plot is about Mary, Queen of Scot's imprisonment in England which history buffs already tells the most interesting part in Mary's life has already happened. This unfortunately took a lot of momentum from the book which lacks of exciting moments.

In the end I liked it just enough to finish it.

Visit Philippa Gregory.

Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Touchstone; 1 edition (September 16, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416549129
ISBN-13: 978-1416549123

Thursday, November 12, 2009

John Saul - House of Reckoning

After the untimely death of her mother, fourteen-year-old Sarah Crane is forced to grow up quickly in order to help tend her family’s Vermont farm and look after her grieving father, who’s drowning his sorrow in alcohol. But their quiet life together is shattered when her father is jailed for killing another man in a barroom brawl and injuring Sarah in a drunken car crash. Left in the cold care of a loveless foster family and alienated at school, Sarah finds a kindred spirit in classmate Nick Dunnigan, a former mental patient still plagued by voices and visions. And in eccentric art instructor Bettina Phillips, Sarah finds a mentor eager to nurture her talent for painting.

But within the walls of Bettina’s ancestral home, the mansion called Shutters, Sarah finds something altogether different and disturbing. Monstrous images from the house’s dark history seem to flow unbidden from Sarah’s paintbrush–images echoed by Nick’s chilling hallucinations. Trapped for ages in the shadowy rooms of Shutters, the violence and fury of long-dead generations have finally found a gateway from the grave into the world of the living. And Sarah and Nick have found a power they never had: to take control, and take revenge.


Having read loads of Saul's novels House of Reckoning wasn't exactly something new for me. The scheme is the usual old one. Troubled teenagers, rather picked on by their classmates find each other and conquer their troubles. The re-occurring theme in Saul's books tends to get me bored although I usually enjoy his writings. The3 characters seems to be very shallow with not enough development to make the reader really care.

Compared to other novels like f. e. Suffer the Children I would consider it a failure. Probably not for the reader new to Saul but for those who know his writings well.

Visit John Saul.

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (October 13, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0345514246
ISBN-13: 978-0345514240

Monday, November 9, 2009

Alex Kava - Black Friday (Maggie O'Dell series, Book 7)

On the busiest shopping day of the year, some idealistic college students believe they're about to carry out an elaborate media stunt at the largest mall in America.
They think the jamming devices in their backpacks will disrupt stores' computer systems, causing delays and chaos. What they don't realize is that instead of jamming devices, their backpacks are stuffed with explosives, ready to be detonated by remote control and turning them into suicide bombers.

Caught up in a political nightmare, battling a new interim director and still mourning the death of her boss A. D. Cunningham, FBI profiler Maggie O'Dell must put her own troubles aside and fly to Minnesota to help figure out what's behind this terrorist attack - a massacre that is all the more frightening because no group has claimed responsibility.

The search becomes personal when a tip reveals that one of the college students involved is Patrick, Maggie's brother. Afraid and on the run, Patrick must decide if he can finally trust Maggie enough to help her unravel this horrifying nightmare.

Sifting through the debris for answers, Maggie is joined by Nick Morelli, who has recently taken a job with a national security company that over sees security for the mall. Although Maggie and Nick have investigated several cases together in the past, they've never investigated a relationship with each other. Nick would like to change that.

When an informant confides in Maggie that there are other attacks on the secret agenda, she knows that she's running out of time. In less than twenty-four hours she'll need to figure out exactly when and where the second attack will take place, who to look for and how to keep her brother from becoming one of the casualties.


Pandemonium after several explosives, placed in Americas biggest shopping mall, explode on the busiest business day of the year: Black Friday.
The mall filled with happy shoppers and a few unsuspecting teenagers out for a prank, the explosives cost the lives of the teenagers and nearby shoppers.

What looks like an unclaimed terrorist attack brings Maggie O'Dell to Minnesota, hurried to come up with a profile by reviewing the malls security tapes.
Once again working with Nick Morelli she has to learn through the TV that one of the teenage suspects is her half-brother Patrick, whom she met for the first time not long ago.

An informant reveals that the mastermind behind the game seems to have a different agenda than the usually non threatening group that initially planned the jamming prank. It seems that the mastermind is one not unknown to the FBI: John Doe #2 from the Oklahoma Bombings.


Black Friday is a quick and easy read for all who love the series and those that pick up one of Kava's books for the first time.
Although not too descriptive in the malls destruction Kava clearly paints a picture of destruction and death in the readers mind that won't be forgotten soon.
The story however has its weak points in structure, especially when it comes the mastermind behind the game.

Relationship-wise it is still a bit stale what goes on between Maggie and Nick. This time around Kava sets Nick in a bad light before, hopefully or not, at one point in future books that the character of Nick isn't really necessary for a Maggie O'Dell novel. It did seem in past books and in he current novel that Nick, besides his strong involvement in Exposed, participates more like a bystander than one of the main characters.

Eventually his character has become unnecessary.

Visit Alex Kava.

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Mira; First Edition first Printing edition (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0778326519
ISBN-13: 978-0778326519

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Patricia Cornwell - The Scarpetta Factor (Kay Scarpetta series, Book 17)

It is the week before Christmas. The effects of the credit crunch have prompted Dr. Kay Scarpetta to offer her services pro bono to New York City's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. But in no time at all, her increased visibility seems to precipitate a string of dramatic and unsettling events. She is asked live on the air about the sensational case of Hannah Starr, who has vanished and is presumed dead. Moments later during the same broadcast, she receives a startling call-in from a former psychiatric patient of Benton Wesley's. When she returns after the show to the apartment where she and Benton live, she finds a suspicious package -- possibly a bomb - waiting for her at the front desk. Soon the apparent threat on Scarpetta's life finds her embroiled in a deadly plot that includes a famous actor accused of an unthinkable sex crime and the disappearance of a beautiful millionairess with whom Lucy seems to have shared a secret past.


The last two installments in the Scarpetta series gave some hope of improvement back to a series most readers once loved but that had lost it's bite. Unfortunately The Scarpetta Factor is a drawback once again. Although it seems that Cornwell tries to give back some substance to the series characters it just isn't what the reader wants. Those who have read the series right from the beginning will miss Scarpetta's investigations, autopsies and exciting morgue stories.
Instead there is a lot of high tech investigation like GPS, Internet and what not.

Cornwell rehashes a lot of the old junk between Scarpetta and now husband Benton. Why he left her and went undercover etc. . It is good to know but not enough substance to fill a 500 pages book.
I'm not sure if the reader still wants to read about the Chandonne family or wants the remaining part to return at all. The Chandonnes' were a part of Cornwell's books way to often and at one point it just gets stale. At least for my taste.

The personal stuff in each characters life got boring and uninteresting, it distracts from the rather thin main plot.

That being said, you'll still like Scarpetta after reading this book but if it is enough to keep you interested for another 500 pages book is the question to be answered.

Visit Patricia Cornwell.

Hardcover: 512 pages
Publisher: Putnam Adult (October 20, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0399156399
ISBN-13: 978-0399156397