This is Patricia Cornwell's first book in the Scarpetta series and it was my introduction to Kay Scarpetta, ME. Written in 1990 when fingerprinting te...moreThis is Patricia Cornwell's first book in the Scarpetta series and it was my introduction to Kay Scarpetta, ME. Written in 1990 when fingerprinting techniques were considered high-tech; DNA matching was considered only slightly more scientifically sound than throwing a dart at pictures of suspects; and, computers had dark screens with green letters, I had to let go and succumb to a major mental time warp. Cornwell includes ample scientific terms and procedures for the time and I can only imagine how much more complex her explanations would have to be today to explain VPN, firewalls, DNA matching, cellular phone data, and so on.
But what probably wouldn't change are the characters themselves. Scarpetta and Marino, Lucy and the commissioner, Boltz and Bertha are all created with significant depth and breadth that they would be recognizable in any Virginia hospital, police station, home or government office. Scarpetta and Marino are flawed but worth rooting for; I admired them but wouldn't want to be friends with them. The point of view was firmly Scarpetta's and the significant amount of internal dialogue complimented the action rather than detracting from it. I appreciated that the author only wrote from her POV; today's authors are too liberal with jumping in and out of their characters heads, causing mine to spin and giving me a case of ADD.
My degree in psychology is only undergraduate, but I would think the profile of the criminal would also still be relevant today. Some characteristics in this book of sociopathic behavior are still prevalent today in books, movies and in the news. And determining how much and what kind of informatoin to leak to the press to inflame or lure or force the suspect into hiding is probably still a debate that goes on today when politicians fear that a serial killer is not within their grasp.
Although I see similarities in all the characters to those in other books (the overbearing, disappointed Italian mother, the flighty and irresponsible sister, the ambitious and morally corrupt commissioner, the hardened street cop, the escalating sociopathic killer), I thought Kay was unique. She's attractive but we join her mid-life when success and love aren't coming easy. She's been through a divorice, she's been in a new job for 2 years surrounded by a pretty good staff who've grown familiar with each other, she's been increasingly involved in her niece's life, she has a relationship with someone... opening the book is being invited into her life in progress. This is why these books can be more satisfying than YA novels - in a capable author's hands, the sum of life experiences and beliefs make a character richer and more complex (read: interesting).
The tension and suspense are handled well; I read this book in 3 days. It wasn't that I couldn't put it down; it's that I wanted to pick it up again and find out what happened. I liked that the politics were messy and there were twists I didn't see coming (I'm not someone who's focused on trying to solve the mystery myself - I'm more of a tourist when I'm reading, content to let the author be my guide). In the 90's, women professionals were not as prevalent as they are today but the grudges and resentment men have toward professional women still strike notes of truth today - it's not difficult to imagine how Scarpetta was feeling under all the pressure.
Overall, I really liked this story. I will probably read another one. And I think Patricia Cornwell's website is pretty cool. It reminds me of J.K. Rowlings' site with a focus on the theme of the books and fun ways to explore them and author's blog. If I were a big fan, I'd have spent more time there. And who knows... I may read another book and begin making regular visits to Scarpetta's virtual office.(less)
I'm not a Nicholas-Sparks-Hallmark-movie-of-the-week-Lifetime-miniseries book reading kind of girl. Mostly, I don't like my feelings being manipulated...moreI'm not a Nicholas-Sparks-Hallmark-movie-of-the-week-Lifetime-miniseries book reading kind of girl. Mostly, I don't like my feelings being manipulated by twist-of-fate accidents and terminal illnesses (this comes in second only behind stories in which an animal - usually a dog - is the narrator or is at the center of the plot and of course suffers or dies). And, it's difficult to connect with the characters when the narration reads like a screenplay for the aforementioned TV or date night movies.
I found all of this in this novel (except for the animal in the story, other than a passing mention of Sammy Jr., the Vietnam vet's dog). It's sometimes hard for authors to write in very different genres - it confuses their loyal readers. I personally didn't find the book hard to reconcile with his other books like the Camel Club and it appears that Baldacci has a soft-spot for family writing like The Christmas Train, Wish You Well (which is being made into a movie - go figure) and Freddy and the French Fries. It could be because I'm not able to finish Camel Club - the characters and plot are just not that rich (unlike Ludlum and Clancy, who capture your attention in the first couple of pages and you feel driven to finish the story).
Jack is preparing to die surrounded by his family. The book explores all the angles of how family relationships change when sudden death (and life) occur. The feelings are messy and imperfect, but not unexpected. In fact, the story has many predictable aspects. The small twists here and there keep this interesting but overall, the roles of teenage daughter, tough ex-Army dad, small-town successful single mom, mother-in-law and best bud are fulfilled without any surprises.
For someone who likes these kinds of books, it was a quick read and a pleasant diversion. For me, I think I've met my quota for this type of book for the next 5 years.
I rated this book three stars but if it were an Indian dish I would give it one star because it is so mild. The author takes us to India, where you ca...moreI rated this book three stars but if it were an Indian dish I would give it one star because it is so mild. The author takes us to India, where you can practically feel the heat and humidity on the characters' skin, then to San Francisco where the clime matches the main characters' demeanor for most of the book - you don't really warm up to them, even when they're in the spotlight. And that's a shame after learning that everything Leila knows about the courtship and physical relationship between a man and woman came from reading romance novels.
The author moves the spotlight frequently, shifting POV between characters even within the same paragraph. While this usually helps the reader understand and connect with the characters on a deeper level, in this novel it often feels jarring. It could also be a short-cut the first-time author uses instead of creating atmosphere and mood through actions and conflict.
It is probably because conflict is handled internally within the main characters Neel and Leila that I didn't feel enough tension or desire as their relationship develops. Caroline, (carol-een), Neel's mistress and his Aunty Vimla are the most expressive and therefore steal the scenes they're in. You can feel the depth of both women's desperation that drives their manipulative behavior and that's what makes them stand out.
However, the restraint, duplicity and self-denial that we see in Leila and Neel is purposeful, though. Through them, the author provides two different perspectives on what it means to be Indian and America and perhaps that's at the core of why this book is mild - the conflicts are internal about desire vs. expectations, family vs. self-determination, culture vs. well, culture.
Throughout the story, there were many places where something stunning or shocking could have occurred, but the pace of the tale and the character development was steady and slow. By the time I reached the final pages, I was satisfied with the ending. But it's like I wished for a Triple Chocolate Tart with Bourbon Whipped Cream and had gulab jamun instead. It's not the spectacular finish I would rave about, but it's a sweet ending all the same.
Some call this speculative fiction, I think it's more like the new weird sci fi. Tom-ay-to, tom-ah-to. It was a really good read however you want to c...moreSome call this speculative fiction, I think it's more like the new weird sci fi. Tom-ay-to, tom-ah-to. It was a really good read however you want to classify it. I liked the innovative juxtaposition of just about everything - modern technology / Victorian times; strong war heroine / classic villian; international politics / classic literary conspiracy theories; megalomanical corporations / romance; portals / dodos as pets.
I sense there are so many literary plays on words and references to other works that I missed but I'm okay with that. Some were obvious - Paige Turner - but they didn't seem corny. To the contrary, the world the heroine Thursday Next lives in revolves so heavily around literature that it makes sense people would name their childern after charaters and literary pasttimes. War is also featured prominently, affecting Thursday's life, her family, her romantic interest and her choice of career and her personality. I'm not sure I needed the anagram of 'Crimea' pointed out to me - I get that the author is very clever.
I was content to live in 1985 with these characters, or whatever that year is in this alternate universe of Thursday Next's. It's that alternate reality, the familiar places and times with strange twists and elements of magic and supernatural that make me think of this as the new weird.
As I was saying, I was content until they began time traveling in one chapter, when Thursday goes on a mission for the Chronoguard. I had the sense that this chapter was inserted not to propel the plot forward but to add a teaser for the next book (or other future one). In it, Thursday sees herself protecting a yet unknown man. I can only guess the author got a book deal for the series and felt compelled to entice us with this one bit of unfinished business. Otherwise, all the other threads in Thursday's life seem to get tied together with a nice, big bow by the end. The only other teaser that stood out was the reference to Archeron Hades as "the third-most evil man on the planet" (gosh, I just love Kindle's search capabililties! The quote is at location 5750, by the way.) because it isn't clear to me who numbers one and two are. Jack Schitt? (Really, I have to giggle a little.) Who else is more evil than Archeron?
There are a lot of characters and some stand out more than others for their depth and development - Thursday, Archeron, Bowden Cable, Mycroft Next. Daisy (mind you, a very bit character but a big obstacle for our heroine) reminds me so much of 'Mrs. Quickly' from the first Nanny McPhee, she could have been the same character; I can picture her with the yellow hair, ugly pink Little Bo Beep dress and low-class British accent.
I recommend this book - it was innovative, interesting and intriguing. Reading 'Jane Eyre' and brushing up on Shakespeare conspiracy theories would have made this a more robust reading experience, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I honestly don't know which ending of the book to believe (the unfinished, unsatifsying one of the 'original manuscript' where Jane leaves for Africa or the one in this book); I sympathized a touch with the Baconians; and I definitely would not want to be on the bad side of the Bronte Federation. Good fun!
This was a smart, highly-stylized collection of vignettes about music industry people in NYC. The author weaves their experiences together, criss-cros...moreThis was a smart, highly-stylized collection of vignettes about music industry people in NYC. The author weaves their experiences together, criss-crossing years and countries and events and siblings, children, parents, girl/boyfriends. If it sounds tangled and difficult to mentally navigate, it was. So pick a character, memorize their world, hold on to those threads, watch other threads being woven in a frenzy all around them - remember, don't let go! - and wait until the merry-go-round stops and drops you neatly off where you began. Except in a different time.
The introverted dissertations and strange discussions the characters have about physics (I skimmed those parts in Jules Jones' chapter - ewww), marketing strategy, the scientific meaning of pauses in music, the use of 'handsets' (really, could she not have called them mobile devices or is that not cool and therefore there is nothing to call them that isn't trademarked, like iPhone) by a generation texting while they're fed organic babyfood have me doubting that these characters resemble anyone I'm likely to meet in Manhattan. Maybe I would, I don't know because I don't live there but I'm suspicious that Egan is a 'parrot' for the music industry. She created a small universe of connected characters that seems implausible in an industry of people who burst onto the scene like fireworks then moments later are gone like smoke. They're interesting but their lives feel like 'casings' that other, more real people - or some combination of people - could fill and live more fully.
The Powerpoint chapter was good, but extraordinarily difficult to read on my black and white Kindle. And, if I was motivated and had more time, I'd be interested in seeing how well her content mapped to each of the different diagrams. (I'm impressed with what I saw, but I had to skip most of it because it was *too small*! for my Kindle. You poor people reading this on your handsets - you can zoom to read the text but good luck on getting the context and big picture and knowing where to read next.)
Overall, this was good. Very innovative, very stylish. I can see why it would attract attention from the literati and Pulitzer folks. For me, this is like other stories set in far-off locales or different centuries - I visited Egan's version of Manhattan and it felt like a whole different world.
This is the first Dean Koontz novel I've read. And I didn't really 'read' it, like I'd hoped. Similar to other folks in my book club, I skimmed a lot....moreThis is the first Dean Koontz novel I've read. And I didn't really 'read' it, like I'd hoped. Similar to other folks in my book club, I skimmed a lot. I read the first sentence, got the gist and sped over the lengthy descriptions.
He creates vivid pictures and I agreed with one of the group's favorite scenes when Mr. Vess, arms and fingers outstretched is seducing a spider so he can taste and experience its essence and soul. But every scene was treated that way with a lot of description so the reader feels as if he or she were there. That's okay, but if thrillers are like roller coasters, this one had one steep hill at the beginning where you felt the adrenaline rush and then you're stuck in the car, slowly navigating the twists and turns on the rails so you can observe the scenery around you, not experience the ride. I feel he wrote it so you would vicariously experience the two main characters' emotions but he wasn't creating any for the reader. A case in point is that it took 60-70 pages for Chyna to free herself from being shackled to a table and chair.
This was a selection for book club, and a great selection because we embrace reading books each of us normally wouldn't pick up on our own. I was 70% of the way done by the time we met and our rule is 'spoilers allowed' so the people who finish the book can talk freely. I heard the ending and it seems satisfying; however we thought of alternate endings that would have given us just one more adrenaline-pumping hill at the end before getting off the ride.(less)
I'm a reality TV watcher and it's possible to see how we collectively could take concepts like 'Survivor' too far, if less humane minds prevailed. I c...moreI'm a reality TV watcher and it's possible to see how we collectively could take concepts like 'Survivor' too far, if less humane minds prevailed. I couldn't buy in, though, to the concept of a North America torn apart into a Capitol and 13 districts, one of which was totally decimated by the rulers in the Capitol. That's probably the type of dystopian society that must exist in order to establish the Hunger Games but the implicit warning to current Americans that we could evolve into that rings hollow.
This is a YA novel and it's written appropriately in a kind of PG-13 manner. The budding romantic relationship is definitely G and it's the violence that gives it an edgier feel, although it pales compared to the violent fare served up by our current North American prime-time shows (think CSI).
The story reminds me of a book we'd be assigned in middle school or junior high for a Great Books program. (Am I dating myself? Do public schools still have that program?) It's high-concept and an easy read that makes you want to root for some young characters (some, not all of course) and very few adults (almost none - they're all flawed except those deceased and doesn't nostalgia about the past and better times always evoke that?) The adults are also drawn with broad strokes so they feel like a single note playing. The exception is Haymitch, who is given some depth as the story unfolds and as a result becomes more interesting.
As the first in a series, the pacing was comfortable through the whole story. It's only the very end when it doesn't wrap up neatly that I'm left to ponder what happens next. The first story could have stood on its own and I'd been satisfied. The abrupt, cliffhanger ending was perfect - I didn't feel manipulated into reading the next book to get satisfaction and closure. I'm not driven to the next installment by the deep character empathy or engaging plot of say a Harry Potter, I'll gladly read 'Catching Fire' in a lull between other books. (less)