Becky’s Seventieth Book Review: “The Queen’s Fool” by Philippa Gregory

The more historical fiction that I read, the more I want to fill my library with it. I think that historical fiction is a fantastic genre. Tracy Chevalier is one of my favorites, her new book is sitting on my kitchen table and I’m dying to read it. Another historical fiction author who I am a big fan of is Philippa Gregory. Granted, I haven’t read most of her works, but I do think that she has talent and now that I’ve finished reading “The Queen’s Fool” I feel the need to get my hands on all the other books written by her.

“The Queen’s Fool” follows the story of Hannah, a Jewish girl who watched her mother burned alive by the Inquisition. She spends the rest of her life hiding her true identity and forced to practice a different religion than her own. Hannah and her father fled to England after her mother was burned, this was an England ruled by Edward VI, Henry VIII’s son, following the Protestant faith. Next in line after Edward is Mary, Henry VIII’s daughter by his first wife and after Mary is Elizabeth, his daughter by his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Hannah has a unique gift—she has the gift of Sight. This gift leads to Hannah becoming the King’s Fool and after his death, the Queen’s Fool. Hannah finds herself living at court and being forced to spy on both Mary and Elizabeth in turn.

One thing that I found especially entertaining for me at least was the fact that I didn’t know how the story was going to go. I guess there is an advantage to never paying attention in history class. After I finished reading “The Queen’s Fool” I spent about an hour surfing the web to find out information about what really happened at the time portrayed in “The Queen’s Fool”. One thing that I found especially interesting is the fact that when Hannah is describing Queen Mary, she always emphasizes how kind and forgiving she is. Events force the Queen to have a stronger hand and now history has nicknamed Queen Mary, “Bloody Mary”.

Philippa Gregory paints a beautiful picture with the language that she uses when she writes. I have so far only read two of her books, but “The Queen’s Fool” was just as good, if not better than the first book I read by her, “The Other Boleyn Girl”. Based off of these two books being wonderful reads I’m on my way to collecting and reading everything she owns. There is just something about historical fiction that makes me want to own the physical book rather than buy the books in e-format. I guess I’m a traditionalist in that way.

Would I recommend “The Queen’s Fool” by Philippa Gregory? Yes, I think that it is a wonderful story and although it seems to be geared towards a female audience, I think that men would enjoy her books as well.

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Becky’s Sixty-Ninth Book Review: “The Listeners” by Christopher Pike

Right now where I live we are experiencing days full of bitter cold and a biting wind just to make everyone more miserable. The worst part of my day is walking to the train station and walking home from the train station. The walk which is in reality only about fifteen minutes long feels like it takes forever. I am pulling out clothes that I usually wear when I go skiing and I find myself at work wearing multiple sweaters. That being said, yesterday when I got off the train and was about to walk home I stood still in the bitter cold to finish my book. In retrospect, I probably should have just walked home and then pulled out my book…but to the true book lover when you are pages away from finishing, you’ll stand still in the freezing cold just so you can know what happens.

Yesterday while I was freezing my ass off I finished reading “The Listeners” by Christopher Pike. It was excellent. I first discovered Christopher Pike when I was younger; I believe late elementary school/early middle school age. I always looked forward to the day that my mom would drive me and my siblings to the library and I could check out books with my very own library card. I remember how exciting it was to have my own. When I was really little, my mom just used her card. At this point in my life though, I was given my very own and I felt rich. Christopher Pike has written a lot of books and most of his works are geared towards young adults. They are all thrillers in one way or another and he has been described as a ‘young adult version of Stephen King’. I devoured every book of his that I could find and he has remained one of my favorites. Sadly, he doesn’t write as quickly as I read but I only recently got my hands on his adult books and I am working my way through them.

“The Listeners” is centered around FBI Agent David Connor and his final assignment before retirement. David’s boss, Ned, sends him to investigate a channeling group called ‘The Listeners’. The group has come up on FBI radar because they seem to have access to highly classified information about government technology. David is put on assignment to go undercover as a reporter to study the group and find out what is going on. He uncovers more than he had ever bargained for and his final assignment turns into a nightmare where David is forced to face the demons of his past in order to fight in the present.

I always find Christopher Pike’s books to be fast paced and so I wasn’t surprised when I finished the book after only a few days. David is the kind of hero that you love and despise at the same time. Pike develops his characters very well. He also always seems to come up with some bizarre plot line to follow for his books and in this sense, he definitely has a similar taste to Stephen King.

Would I recommend “The Listeners” by Christopher Pike? Yes, I think that he is a great author and especially if you enjoy reading thrillers with a touch of sci-fi you would enjoy “The Listeners”. Plus I think my suffering the cold to finish the book speaks for itself.

Becky’s Sixty-Eighth Book Review: “The Dead Zone” by Stephen King

I have found that the more I read Stephen King, the more I enjoy his work. Yesterday I finished reading “The Dead Zone” by Stephen King. The book was a quick read and very enjoyable. King certainly comes up with some interesting thoughts when writing and I can only hope that someday I’ll develop a similar talent.

“The Dead Zone” is about a guy, Johnny Smith who gets into a car accident and is in a coma for five years. When he wakes up from this coma he has psychic abilities—sort of. Johnny actually falls down on the ice when he was a kid at the beginning of the book and develops these abilities then, they just become more pronounced when he comes out of his coma. Johnny is not pleased with this curse, especially because he gets media attention when his predictions are correct and then everyone treats him very differently. No one wants Johnny to touch him for fear that he is going to know all of their deepest, darkest secrets.

Then Johnny meets a politician and when they shake hands Johnny realizes just how dangerous this man is and will be. He then asks the question over and over again—if you could go back in time and stop Hitler, would you? Johnny knows that he has a responsibility to the world and the words his mother said to him echo in his ears. “What a power God has given you…He has a job for you…Don’t run from Him, Johnny…do your duty.”

“The Dead Zone” by Stephen King was very entertaining. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Stephen King. There are definitely some upsetting parts in the book, so it is not for the faint of heart…but “The Dead Zone” is a very enjoyable read.

Becky’s Sixty-Seventh Book Review: “Hunting Season” by P.T. Deutermann

I personally believe that P.T. Deutermann is an outstanding author. He has written several series in addition to writing stand-alone novels. I just finished reading the first stand-alone novel of his that I’ve read and it was a thrilling read. P.T. Deutermann’s “Hunting Season” is an awesome combination of conspiracy theory, thrills and action, and a view on just how far a man will go to protect his daughter.

“Hunting Season” opens with Lynn Kreiss and two of her friends running into trouble that inevitably turns to them being declared missing persons. Lynn Kreiss is Edward Kreiss’s daughter and he is a retired FBI agent. When Kreiss is informed that the case is going to be essentially dropped on the local level he decides to take matters into his own hands. When Kreiss was in the FBI he was a man hunter whose specialty was making rogue operatives disappear. He takes the skills that he retained from his work for the FBI and goes into action determined to find out what happened to his daughter.

If you step back from the book far enough, it sounds like a similar plot to that of the movie “Taken” starring Liam Nielson. Of course “Taken” came out in 2008 while “Hunting Season” was published in 2001. But it is the same idea of a father taking the awesome skills that he has developed from working a job that ended up pulling him away from his family to triumph over all obstacles and put his family back together again.

Would I recommend “Hunting Season” by P.T. Deutermann? Yes, anyone who enjoys a good thrill-ride would enjoy this book. I think that Deutermann writes in a way that would appeal to both readers and non-readers alike.

Becky’s Sixty-Sixth Book Review: “Double Dexter” by Jeff Lindsay

SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE NOT UP-TO-DATE ON THE DEXTER BOOKS AND ARE PLANNING ON READING THEM

There are many emotions that I am feeling right now as a result of finishing reading “Double Dexter” by Jeff Lindsay. One of them is sadness because I am unaware of whether or not Lindsay is planning on writing more books and since I have finished reading this one I am all caught up. This is highly disappointing. Another emotion I am feeling is happiness because now that I’m done reading “Double Dexter” I can concentrate more fully on reading the several other books that I have in the mix at the moment and I got quite a few books for Christmas…so finishing a book is always fun because it means I can start another one! Another feeling that I had upon finishing this book was pride. I am proud that one of my New Year’s ‘goals’ (because resolutions never work, so I made goals) is to read two books per month. I have already reached that goal this month with the completion of this novel.

“Double Dexter”by Jeff Lindsay was very entertaining and constantly while reading it I kept thinking about how Lindsay really needs to write more books so that I can read them. I love the bizarre way that his mind works and I think that his characters are so entertaining. I would love for him to write another series similar to Dexter, but with a different premise. Then again, some authors are best when sticking to the same group of characters. So until he actually does write another series I just won’t know. Either way, I kept catching myself laughing aloud at the sarcasm that can always be found in the Dexter series. Since I tend to read while taking the train to and from work, this does have the side effect of making me look crazy.

“Double Dexter”begins with Dexter doing what he does best. He is at ‘work’ making the world a better place by killing a pedophile-murderer who has continued to slip through the justice system unscathed. While in the middle of cleaning up after his fun, Dexter hears a noise and looks up just in time to see the back of someone head. Dexter has a witness and is now in a race to find the witness before he exposes Dexter for what he is. This leads to much stress in his life and to further complicate matters, Rita is upset but Dexter cannot figure out why and Astor, Cody, and Lily-Anne are presenting challenges daily. To top it all off, there is a cop-killer on the loose.

There were several really entertaining quotes in the book that I made note of so that I could write them in my review. I think they are great examples of Lindsay’s writing style. For example, “The gruesome jokes that would ordinarily bring forth my best fake chuckle seemed like fingernails on a chalkboard, and it was a miracle of self-control that I simmered silently through the moronic hilarity for ninety minutes without setting anyone on fire.”(Lindsay, Jeff. Double Dexter, pg 17). Also, “Happily for me, ninety-nine percent of all human life is spent simply repeating the same old actions, speaking the same tired clichés, moving like a zombie through the same steps of the dance we plodded through yesterday and the day before and the day before. It seems horribly dull and pointless—but it really makes a great deal of sense. After all, if you only have to follow the same path every day, you don’t need to think at all. Considering how good humans are at any mental process more complicated than chewing, isn’t that best for everybody?” (Lindsay, Jeff. Double Dexter, pg 36). And one last one, “I came, I duct-taped, I conquered. That was who I am.” (Lindsay, Jeff. Double Dexter, pg 239).

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely, but only to a certain crowd because not everyone will appreciate a sarcastic serial killer with an affinity for alliterations.

Becky’s Sixty-Fifth Book Review: “Safe Haven” by Nicolas Sparks

I went to see Les Miserables with my Mom on New Years Day. We get into the theater just a few minutes before the movie starts and started enjoying the previews. There were many movies advertised that I thought ‘I’m definitely going to have to see that’. One of the previews was for a movie called “Safe Haven” which is based off of a Nicolas Sparks novel. Instead of thinking ‘I’m going to have to see that’ I thought ‘I really want to read that book!’ and so I did.

“Safe Haven” by Nicolas Sparks was a very well written book which I began on Saturday morning and finished Saturday afternoon. The story is based in the small town of Southport, NC. The main character, Katie has just moved to the quiet town and keeps pretty much to herself. She waitresses at one of the local joins and does almost all of her shopping at a little store that is pretty close to her home. She doesn’t have a car, so she walks everywhere and her little cabin is only furnished with items that came with the house. The store that she often shops at is owned by Alex. He bought the business from his father-in-law and the widower runs the store with his daughter behind the counter and his son fishing outside.

Alex and Katie get to know each other very slowly. Katie is very shy about meeting people in town and reluctantly becomes friends with her neighbor, Jo. We know that there is a reason that Katie has moved to Southport but it is unclear what she is running from. Katie’s story of why she ran is slowly unveiled. At the same time Alex and Katie are falling in love—a prospect that is frightening for both of them since the last woman that Alex loved was his wife who died and the last man that Katie loved was the reason that she came to Southport to begin with. I don’t want to give too much away because really part of the fun of reading a book is that it is a mystery that you reveal with the turn of each page.

Would I recommend this book? Definitely, but only to certain people. I believe that my Mom would really enjoy this book, but it isn’t something that I would pass along to my little brother. It is a novel by Nicholas Sparks which should tell you something, he writes almost exclusively chick-flick books. “The Notebook” and “A Walk to Remember” were both made into movies along with now “Safe Haven”. I felt that “Safe Haven” by Nicolas Sparks was a very good read. It was especially nice because the book was easier to digest than some of the things that I have been reading lately.

Becky’s Sixty-Fourth Book Review: “The Murder Room” by Michael Capuzzo

I tend to have different reactions when I finish reading books depending on if the book is awesome and if it is part of a series or if the book was mediocre but I felt the need to finish it anyway. I just finished reading “The Murder Room” by Michael Capuzzo and now I have that empty feeling when you’ve become so attached to the characters in the novel that you just want to keep reading about them. But the book is over, so you can’t. What is really ridiculous is the fact that I’ve owned this book since April and only just got around to reading it a few weeks ago. I would have finished it sooner if it wasn’t Christmas time because I’ve been rather busy with all the Christmas stuff and didn’t have as much time to read. Plus, when I had time off I wasn’t riding the train twice a day so my usual 40 minutes a day of reading wasn’t there. Anyway…

“The Murder Room” is a very unique novel in my opinion. The book is about the Vidocq Society (which I’m still not sure how to pronounce, so if someone knows they should tell me). The Vidocq Society is a real crime-fighting ‘secret’ society. It was formed with the goal of solving cold cases. They have certain standards in what they will investigate, but the Vidocq Society works strictly probono and is made up of a collection of retired and active FBI agents, police detectives, criminal profilers, forensic specialists, private eyes and so on. In order for a case to be considered by the Vidocq Society, it must have been cold for at least two years (they are very strict about not interfering with police investigations), the victims cannot have been involved in criminal activity (i.e. drug dealing or prostitution), and it must be formally presented to them by the appropriate law enforcement agency. The society was founded by Bill Fleisher, Richard Walter, and Frank Bender and meets the third Thursday of every month for lunch and cold cases. This all occurs in Philadelphia which made this particularly interesting to me. The cases that they worked on and discussed in the book were ones that had occurred right around when I live so it was very interesting to have a link (albeit a morbid link) to the book.

I felt that “The Murder Room” gave a unique insight into the process that the Vidocq Society follows and also an in-depth look at the founding members. I personally found Richard Walter the most fascinating and according to the internet, he is still working today so I’m hoping to randomly run into him on the street when he is wearing a name tag so that I can identify him and become friends with the loner profiler who smokes kools. That is probably unlikely, but you never know. At least I live in the city he visits monthly. The two people who were featured the most in “The Murder Room” were Walter and Frank Bender. While I found Bender to be an entertaining individual, I’m pretty sure if we were to have met he’d been a little weird even for me. I mean the guy would boil skulls in his kitchen (he was a forensic artist). But he unfortunately passed away from a rare form of cancer.

Would I recommend reading this book? Yes, definitely. But the book would not be for the faint of heart. It is a true crime novel and Michael Capuzzo dives deep into the cases that the Vidocq Society tries to solve. Some of the cases are very upsetting like ‘The Boy in the Box’ and some are rather gory. Not everyone would enjoy this novel, but I definitely did and now want to get my hands on more true crime novels. I find them entertaining, and also I’m working on being a mystery writer myself, so when I’m reading these types of books I can say that I’m researching.