Archive for February, 2013


Genesis by Bernard Beckett

genesisGenesis by Bernard Beckett

Published December 31st, 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Cover image and synopsis from the Goodreads book page

Buy this book at: Book Depository / Books A Million / B&N / Amazon

 

Synopsis:

Anax thinks she knows history. Her grueling all-day Examination has just begun, and if she passes, she’ll be admitted into the Academy—the elite governing institution of her utopian society. But Anax is about to discover that for all her learning, the history she’s been taught isn’t the whole story. And the Academy isn’t what she believes it to be. In this brilliant novel of dazzling ingenuity, Anax’s examination leads us into a future where we are confronted with unresolved questions raised by science and philosophy. Centuries old, these questions have gained new urgency in the face of rapidly developing technology. What is consciousness? What makes us human? If artificial intelligence were developed to a high enough capability, what special status could humanity still claim? Outstanding and original, Beckett’s dramatic narrative comes to a shocking conclusion.

 

Rating: 5 star

 

Review:

After finishing this book well over a month ago, I am still tempted to make my review only a few words.  Wow, fucking amazing!  That’s really every single emotion I have about this book all wrapped up into a succinct package.  Also, by talking about the plot too much I will probably give things away and I don’t want to do that.  Being spoiled on this book would seriously ruin its impact.  This was recommended to me in a Goodreads book club. My “Secret Book Santa”, who was not so secret, looked over my to read list and my read list and thought this was something I’d enjoy.  I went into it with no expectations other than that the synopsis grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let it go.  I thought about that synopsis for a few days and knew, I needed to give this recommendation a try.  And all I can say is, holy fucking shit!  Rarely am I rendered speechless or blindsided by a plot.

Here are the things I feel safe saying, so as not to spoil anything:

Anax is taking an Exam to enter into the Academy, which is the ruling body that maintains order in the world.  She was asked to choose a topic and prepare a thesis of sorts.  She will go before the Examiners for a grueling exam and explain her thesis subject.

Yeah, that’s about it. Anything else is just too much. I will say that initially I was only mildly intrigued with Anax’s thesis and presentation. It was interesting but I struggled to figure out what the point was.  All of that changed in the end. About 30 pages from the end I started to get a bad feeling that something was happening here that I hadn’t seen yet and hadn’t expected.  I was so beyond right and it was fantastic.  I have no doubt this book will be one of my favorites for 2013.

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the forgotten queenThe Forgotten Queen by D.L. Bogdan

Published January 29th, 2013 by Kensington

Cover image and synopsis provided by the publisher.

 

Buy this book at: Amazon / B&N / Book Depository / Books A Million

 

Rating 2 star

 

Synopsis:

From her earliest days, Margaret Tudor knows she will not have the luxury of choosing a husband. As daughter of Henry VII, her duty is to gain alliances for England. Barely out of girlhood, Margaret is married by proxy to James IV and travels to Edinburgh to become Queen of Scotland.

Despite her doubts, Margaret falls under the spell of her adopted home. But she has rivals. While Jamie is an affectionate husband, he is not a faithful one. And providing an heir cannot guarantee Margaret’s safety when Jamie leads an invading army against her own brother, Henry VIII. In the wake of tragic loss she falls prey to the attentions of the ambitious Earl of Angus—a move that brings Scotland to the brink of anarchy. Beset by betrayal, secret alliances, and the vagaries of her own heart, Margaret has one overriding ambition—to preserve the crown of Scotland for her son, no matter what the cost.

Exquisitely detailed and poignant, The Forgotten Queen vividly depicts the life and loves of an extraordinary woman who helped shape the fate of two kingdoms—and in time, became the means of uniting them.

 

Review:

 

**Warning: Mild spoilers ahead!**

Something is wrong with me, or at least wrong with the books I’ve been reading lately.  My past 3 or 4 books were 2 stars, I need to stop that trend!  Unfortunately, this book is not going to be the one to end the streak.  I wanted it to be, so desperately.  The cover is amazing, I am so in love with that dress that I wanted to read the book simply for that.  The synopsis also grabbed my attention.  Everyone has read books about the infamous Tudors.  Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Princess Catherine, all of these are names that most people would recognize.  Margaret is the oft overlooked Tudor that I can’t recall having too many books written about her.  In retrospect, there seems to be a very good reason for that.

Initially, I thought that I would quite like Margaret.  She was spunky and fiery, with a bit of an attitude on her too.  Her journey to the altar (by proxy) at the age of 13 to the King of Scotland, who was 20 years her senior, was a sweet introduction to the story and her character.  I liked that she understood her role in a royal family of being a queen and producing a royal family, while trying to bring two kingdoms together.  She was being proactive and determined to do her part for both England and Scotland.  I also enjoyed seeing her struggles to acclimate to a new country and discovering exactly what being a queen entailed.  Unfortunately, Margaret went from spunky and intelligent to selfish and narcissistic in a hurry. I found myself furious with her so many times that I stopped counting.  EVERYTHING was about her!  And when things stopped revolving around her for half a second she threw a fit and did something stupid, like firing a cannon at her husband.  She humiliated herself often but then got angry at every perceived slight that “shamed” her, no honey you are doing a wonderful job of that yourself.

I am not done unloading about Margaret here, she was also a horrible narrator because it was alllllll about the Margaret show.  Her child dies, it’s shoved aside when she gets a new dress and is so excited about it.  Her favorite servant dies and she is stunned that the woman had family and other interests besides hearing her self-indulgent rants all the time.  Her husband lies to her, deceives her, cheats on her, steals from her, and abandons her.  Yet she lets him take her son (the crowned king!) for a visit.  And then is absolutely shocked that he won’t give him back!  What the holy mother of God did you think would happen?!  He’s scum and has always had aspirations to control the king so you just hand the king over!?  Her late husband tells her, you must remain unmarried or they will challenge you for the crown.  She remarries and then is stunned when they challenge her for the crown!! AAAAHHHH!!  I can’t talk about Margaret anymore or I’m going to have a rage induced stroke.

Jamie was the complete opposite in terms of character, I really liked him a lot.  He was kind, considerate, intelligent, and looked to the future in a way befitting of a king.  I thought that this was the character I’d hate, marrying a 13-year-old and bringing her to Scotland at 14.  But I didn’t.  He recognized that she was just a girl and probably had no idea what being a wife and queen meant and was patient with her missteps.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that Jamie genuinely and honestly loved Margaret even if he was far from the perfect husband.  He did everything he could to make her happy but it didn’t end up working because she still nagged at him about everything.  I felt sorry for him by the end simply for having to deal with her.

The plot also presented me a lot of trouble, mainly because I wasn’t sure that there was one.  It was over 300 pages of a narcissistic rant that was all about Margaret.  That got boring really quick.  There was almost no mention of the intrigue of the time, nations in turmoil, her brother’s court in shambles, Scotland under siege from within, nothing of any import for the time at all.  All about Margaret and what made Margaret happy or unhappy.  I also pray that the formatting was fixed for the final copy because the ARC was practically unreadable.  In one sentence, a son was alive and well and being christened.  Literally in the next sentence, with no segue, the same son is dead and they are at his funeral.  I have zero idea how much time passed in between the two events.  Topics were mentioned and changed at will and with no explanation, segue, or even a paragraph break to tell me what was going on.  At one point, two whole years passed from the time we ended one paragraph to when we started the next.  It was so confusing.  I hope this was only a problem with the ARC because if the final copy is like that, God help anyone who reads it.

I cannot recommend this book.  It nearly killed me just to finish it and I considered putting it down and giving up more than a dozen times.  Unless you are a massive fan of the author then I fear your reading experience will echo mine.

Thank you Kensington for providing me an ARC of this book via NetGalley.  It was provided in exchange for an honest review.

 

the seventh victimThe Seventh Victim by Mary Burton

Published January 29, 2013 by Kensington Books

Synopsis and cover image provided by the publisher.

 

Buy this book at: Book Depository / Amazon/ B&N

 

Synopsis:

If At First You Don’t Succeed

It’s been seven years since the Seattle Strangler terrorized the city. His victims were all young, pretty, their lifeless bodies found wrapped in a home-sewn white dress. But there was one who miraculously escaped death, just before the Strangler disappeared…

Kill

Lara Church has only hazy memories of her long-ago attack. What she does have is a home in Austin, a job, and a chance at a normal life at last. Then Texas Ranger James Beck arrives on her doorstep with shattering news: The Strangler is back. And this time, he’s in Austin…

And Kill Again…

He’s always craved her, even as he killed the others. For so long he’s been waiting to unleash the beast within. And this time, he’ll prove he holds her life in his hands—right before he ends it forever…

 

Rating: 2 star

 

Review:

Let me tell you a little story about this book.  I accidentally requested to get an ARC.  I thought that the author was a different author whom I have read and enjoyed before and I jumped out of my chair in joy at thinking she had a new book.  After I realized that I was mistaken about who the author was, I ended up not caring too much because the story still sounded really fantastic.  Oh, how I was wrong!  Despite having an excellent cover and an astounding synopsis, this book was just a mess.  I bring you, bullet points!

  • Predictable plot is predictable.  By the second or third time we have the killer introduced into a scene, I knew who it was.  It was so painfully obvious that it was…well painful.  Also, by about the halfway point I had figured out what the twist was and by 70% I knew who the twist would revolve around.  I don’t know whether to credit my obsession with the TV show Criminal Minds for this or maybe the plot was just that obvious and unimaginative.
  • Stubborn heroine who insists on protecting herself but seems to be incapable of doing so.  Every time we talked to Lara she was insisting that she could take care of herself, but them proceeds to do completely idiotic things that seem to suggest otherwise.  For example, going to a recent crime scene when it is nearly dark outside…by yourself…with just a camera…and a shotgun (that she left in a locked car).  I mean, what good is a shotgun going to do you if it’s locked in your car 20 yards away?  I’m pretty sure an assailant isn’t going to allow you to run 20 yards to the car, unlock the car, get the shotgun, load the shotgun, and then shoot him.  She has a darkroom and leaves it unlocked while she is in there with her back to the door and in the dark.  And then she ignores her dog when he starts barking at something from outside.  Gee, that sounds smart!  And don’t get your hopes up that the other female characters are any smarter, they aren’t.  One notable moment is when one girl gets a flat tire, on an abandoned road at night, without cell phone service, hasn’t seen another sign of human life in at least a half hour, but is ever so grateful at the person who has been following her the whole time for offering his help!  I sincerely hope that there are not that many stupid women in the world.
  • Cops who are either oblivious or inept.  Anyone who has watched Law & Order knows that when a person is attacked, most of the time the attacker is someone they know.  Yet, these cops mostly seem to sit around wondering which unknown stranger it could be without even bothering to look at people close to Lara.  Their justification is, well it’s a serial killer so he probably doesn’t know the victims.  That doesn’t hold water either.  Criminal Minds has taught me that serial killers have their distinct signatures because the actions satisfy some need or fantasy they have.  If a serial killer does not rape his victims and then suddenly a similar crime appears with a rape, it’s not the same guy.  If a serial killer is going after prostitutes and homeless woman, and suddenly it’s a young blonde college student who was a big risk then it’s not the same guy!  But all of this is overlooked too, despite the claim that a FBI profiler was advising them. Really?  He must be inept too!
  • Lame romance.  It was very cliche for the head cop to fall for Lara.  And I just didn’t feel it.  I knew that they had feelings for each other because the author told me they did, but that’s the only reason.  Their actual actions and words didn’t lead me to that conclusion at all.  Then they decide to have sex after the most traumatic and violent scene in the whole book?  What?  Nearly getting killed is an aphrodisiac for Lara?  Yeah that was weird and made me feel like I needed a shower with bleach.  Oh and let’s throw in another cliche, simultaneous orgasms.  Has this honestly ever happened to anyone in real life?  It’s never happened to me!  The sex scene made me laugh though.  In one paragraph Lara removed his pants and then on the next page she was undoing the button on his pants…when did he put them back on? *snicker*
  • Name a cliche, any cliche!  Any cliche you can think of for a murder mystery/suspense/thriller and this book probably had it.  Surviving victim becomes the obsession of the killer.  Obsessed cop who couldn’t let this case go and is now sticking his nose into the current case.  Lead cop falling for the poor surviving victim.  Female characters with no sense of self preservation.  The miraculous “ah ha!” moment that answers all of the questions surrounding the case just pages before the end.  The police miraculously bursting in the door just in time to save the poor female victim with a few well placed bullets that never miss.  I could name more but I think you get the idea.
  • Suspense?  Where?  This was supposedly a suspense novel, but I never once felt that rush in my veins that suspense novels usually give me.  Mostly I just got bored.  I started mentally counting cliches in my head and coming up with a scorecard for how well I predicted the book’s plot.  There was no suspense, I knew exactly what would happen chapters before it actually happened.

So, there we have it.  If you want to read a serial killer novel that is exactly like thousands of other serial killer novels then this is a book for you.  If you’ve never read a serial killer novel then this is perfect since you won’t have a clue about how cliche it is!  But otherwise, give this one a pass unless you’re suffering from insomnia…because then it might help.

I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you Kensington books!  This review is based on an uncorrected ARC of this book, certain things may differ from the final copy.