Postmortem (Kay Scarpetta, #1)
Author: Patricia Cornwell
Publication Date: 1/1/90
Blurb (GR): Under cover of night in Richmond, Virginia, a human monster strikes, leaving a gruesome trail of stranglings that has paralyzed the city. Medical examiner Kay Scarpetta suspects the worst: a deliberate campaign by a brilliant serial killer whose signature offers precious few clues. With an unerring eye, she calls on the latest advances in forensic research to unmask the madman. But this investigation will test Kay like no other, because it's being sabotaged from within and someone wants her dead.
I loved the 1990s. There was great television, Pogs, scrunchies, and the Pittsburgh Penguins were amazing at hockey. (obviously Jaromir Jagr's mullet contributed a significant amount to this last part) And although I totally loved playing Seventh Guest, Oregon Trail, Carmen Sandiego, and the like on our old Macs, I'm happy with the advancements in technology. Okay, moving on, I also love crime novels. When they are set in ye oldey times, I get caught up in the story, seeing how Sherlock could deduce his way to victory. Or when they are set in the future, I like seeing Eve Dallas use new-fangled technology to find her man. (Or woman. Or robot!) Even when books are set in current times, or in the past few years, it's great! BUT Postmortem lies in the bottom of awkward valley for me at the moment. I read over and over and over about how "maybe" someone should change their words-only password on a networked computer and how "secure" the network was. Every time I read about dialing in from home to a network that was left in answer mode, I could hear the dial up noise in my head...and how grating is that? (Side note: do kids today even know what a dial-up noise is? I feel old.) I'm sure, nay, positive that I will enjoy the Scarpetta books further down the line as technology catches up but I was frustrated throughout this novel. There was many a dramatic eye roll and "Oh, brother" muttered. The printer paper still had those holey side parts and DNA evidence was new. They spend at least half of the book talking about some glittery substance and I couldn't figure out why they didn't just test it to figure out what it was. (Did I miss something here? Why couldn't they do chemical testing?)
In terms of the plot, I was entertained throughout. I wasn't sure whodunit until the big reveal and I suspected, as I'm supposed to, several side characters along the way. Cornwell definitely knows the building blocks to a successful medical crime thriller. It is easy to tell that she comes from the medical side of things and those were definitely my favorite parts of the book--the autopsies, discussions of injuries, etc. The least successful (read: most annoying) sections of the book for me were Kay Scarpetta's interactions with her precocious niece. Evidently her niece is the Doogie Howser of the computer hacking world but without his boyish charm. (and lab coat)
The book is entertaining but it didn't do much for me overall. I will keep going in this series though because my dear friend Maja is in love with it and I think it will get better as I get out of the dated technology era. I bet I would really enjoy this if I read it in twenty years!
At this point, I'm just going to rehash a few plot points for people who may have forgotten. As I keep following series for years (I'm on number thirtysomething with Eve Dallas!), I realize how much I forget about early books. This will serve as a reminder to me (and you?) about the events of book one in this series. Don't read on if you don't want to absolutely spoil the book!
Several women are murdered by someone with a glittery substance on their hands. The perpetrator comes in through open windows. Simultaneously, Kay is near-raped by her psuedo-boyfriend, who'd done something similar to the local newswoman. (whose sister ends up being the last victim) Though she and Marino suspect a few other people first, Kay figures out that the link between all the women is that they'd all called 911 weeks/months before their murder for minor things. The 911 operator is the killer. The glittery substance was borax-based cleanser at his work that he used all the time because he had some random syndrome that made him smell like maple syrup all the time. (seriously) At the end, Kay's niece leaves her window open and the rapist gets in and is going to kill Kay but Marino arrives and shoots him before he can.
Last weekend, I was looking online at the hours of a nearby bookstore (Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park
) and found out that there was a YA author event starting in fifteen minutes. I hightailed it over there to catch the Stages on Pages author tour
, which is a group of authors who have written books dealing with the performing arts. The authors vary at each tour stop but the ones I had the pleasure of seeing were Jessica Martinez
,Stasia Ward Kehoe
, Conrad Wesselhoeft
, Louise Spiegler
, Tara Kelly
, and Rosanne Perry
. I was a few minutes late getting there and apparently I missed Jessica Martinez playing the violin -- I'm pretty sad about that. Each author read from his/her book and discussed a bit about the plot of their book and how it depicts the arts. Most of the books have to do with music, two with violin and two with rock music but Louise Spiegler's The Jewel and the Key
deals with theater (and time travel!) and Stasia Ward Kehoe's Audition
is about a dancer.
Stasia Ward Kehoe, Tara Kelly (reading), and Conrad Wesselhoeft | The same three, Louise Spiegler, and Jessica Martinez (reading)
When I got there, Rosanne Perry was discussing the plot of her book, Second Fiddle
. She talked a bit about how tough it can be to pitch books to YA boys when the cover is not "boy friendly." Apparently, she's had discussions with male readers who've been intrigued by the plot but turned off by the feminine nature of the cover. After the presentations by the authors were done they asked the audience a few questions and one of them was, "What is more important, cover or title?" It was completely unsurprising to me that the overwhelming answer was cover. After she was done reading, Ms. Perry played a bit of Amazing Grace on the violin before she (quite literally) packed up and ran out. (I'm assuming she had plans and maybe mentioned this to the audience before I got there)Next up was Louise Spiegler who spoke about her new book, The Jewel and the Key. She grew up doing theater productions in school and her book centers on a girl who can travel through time through a downtown theater. She also told a funny story about how her parents told her that perhaps theater wasn't her calling. In retrospect, she said, they were right because it led her to become both a teacher and a writer, which she loves. Many of my Goodreads friends rave on about Jessica Martinez's debut novel, Virtuosity, which is the story of a violin prodigy, so I was really excited to hear what she had to say.
Later on in the event, she admitted that she never set out to write a YA book, it was just a publisher and/or marketing choice. Martinez is a talented musician herself and told several funny stories about her inspirations for the book. She said, "I love music but I can think of so many reasons why a girl might want to throw her violin off a balcony. So I wrote about those reasons." I'm not a musician at all but I can certainly understand the sentiment of feeling frustrated about something I love. She also told a hilarious story about an instance during her high school years (I presume) when her violin teacher asked if she wanted to play his violin. She shrugged and said she guessed so and after playing the instrument, she remarked that she'd love to someday own an instrument with such a deep sound. He told her she could, if she had 4 MILLION DOLLARS. She was floored and said she couldn't believe he'd been so blase about it. What if she'd tripped?
Wesselhoeft speaking, Martinez and Spiegler
When Conrad Wesselhoeft took the stage, the first thing he did wake me think about history. He said it was one of his goals to stand on the same stage where a Beatle had stood. It was his lucky day as Paul McCartney has evidently visited Third Place Books and stood on the very stage the authors were sitting on. (cue me wondering who else has stood there!) He read from his debut work, Adios, Nirvana
and spoke a little bit about his writing process. Several of the authors on the tour are in the same writing group, which I found rather interesting. After Wesselhoeft finished speaking, Tara Kelly read from her second book, Amplified
, which came out this month. Unbeknownst to me (read: I totally forgot), I'd read her debut work Harmonic Feedback
. One of my book clubs picked her new book as our November group read, I'm just waiting for my copy to get processed through the library so I can join them. Kelly said she feels a bit naked without her guitar and decided to set Amplified
in Santa Cruz because of the quirky population. She said she once saw a person dressed as death going into a Denny's while she was in college in the area, which definitely made me chuckle. Interestingly, hers was the only book whose title was changed from her original title before publication.The last author to speak was Stasia Ward Kehoe, whose verse work Audition was recently released by Viking. I think I might listen to too many audiobooks because I actually wrote down in my notes, "I'd love to listen to this woman read me an audiobook." How creepy is that? (Note to Ms. Kehoe: If your book turns into an audiobook, READ IT YOURSELF!) The plotline of her book deals with a small town dancer who gets a scholarship to a big city dancing school. Big fish to small fish. I'm not usually interested in books written in verse but I don't know if I can resist.
(plus it sounds a bit like Center Stage which is a total guilty pleasure of mine)
Sadly, I didn't win any of their giveaways but I got a super awesome prize--It turns out that Lish McBride (I WANT THE NEW NECROMANCER BOOK NOW!) and Holly Cupala were sitting a row in front of me! So cool to see those two in real life. New books on my radar, lots of interesting information, and a fun afternoon all around. See if they're coming anywhere near you on their tour!
(There are several other authors that hop on and off the tour)
A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness (from an idea by Siobhan Dowd), illus. by Jim Kay
Publication Date: 9/15/11
Publisher: CandlewickBlurb (GR):
This is an extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss. The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming. . . .
This monster, though, is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.
Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final story idea of Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.Review:
Last Fourth of July, I played a party game called Time’s Up
with some friends. The gist of the game is that everyone has a partner and you start with a certain number of cards as a group—say 40. Each one has a different movie/television show/book title on it and you use the same cards for the entire game so if you have great recall, the game is much easier. In the first round, you try to get your partner to guess the title by describing the movie without using specific words. (like Taboo
) The second round involves trying to get your partner to guess the movie by saying one
word. The third round is charades. This game is hilariously fun because I get to watch people try to act out Bridge on the River Kwai
and to see what the one word they’d pick is to sum something up. So many books are utterly forgettable. I read too much to remember all the details of everything over time. I reached 1,000 books read last week and so what if somewhere around 150 of those are children’s books, it is still a milestone. 1,000 books further down the line, I’ll still remember A Monster Calls
. While it would be a completely useless one word sum-up for the party board game, the one word for this book is beautiful because it is just that, inside and out.
I think it is lovely that Patrick Ness
took a story idea from an author we lost too early, Siobhan Dowd
. I’d read reviews of A Monster Calls
before going into it so I knew what I was getting into, but in case you don’t, this is about a boy dealing with losing his mother to cancer. I have not experienced the loss of a parent but this book did not feel emotionally manipulative to me, and from what I’ve taken away from other reviews, the feelings reflected by Conor ring true for at least a large portion of people who have gone through that nightmare themselves. No part of the book felt cliché to me either, which I frankly found surprising. There is an absolute skill to taking a heavier theme, writing a book for children or young adults, and making it not only accessible but I daresay appealing
to adults. I’ve never read anything Ness has written beyond this but I definitely will be doing so. He isn’t condescending to children. He doesn’t tell saccharine fairy tales, and I loved that. I guessed what the monster was there for all along but that takes nothing away from the book and the way the yew tree was brought into the story, through references and illustrations by Jim Kay
was perfect. On Kay’s website, he discusses the cover image and says,
“I have very fond childhood memories of being in the back seat of a car watching fields and farmland rush by. During the hour of twilight, the familiar objects began to lose their definition, became dark, anonymous forms. The countryside at night through the window of a car was both frightening and compelling; the everyday merged with the unknown, and this is how Patrick’s story felt to me.” (1
You and me, both, Mr. Kay. The eerie artwork paired perfectly with Conor's story. The whole book felt like he was stuck in an in-between place, which I suppose he was. Those aren't places I like to spend a lot of time but every once in a while...
I won a signed copy of this from my friend Jo
's blog, Wear the Old Coat
. It was definitely a prized treasure of mine from the moment I unwrapped the parcel.
Drumroll, please...the lucky winner of my 100 Followers Giveaway is Rebecca @ Reading Wishes. Congratulations, Rebecca!
In other book news, I am absolutely ecstatic about my upcoming lineup. I've never done an In My Mailbox
posting before but I was tempted to do it this week. Firstly, I won a signed copy of A Monster Calls
by Patrick Ness from my favorite Mancunian, Jo over at Wear the Old Coat
. I'd say I've never been so excited to receive a book before but I also won a signed copy of Raw Blue
last month from Nomes at Inkcrush
and I already read and absolutely loved that one before I won it. I got back from a vacation yesterday. While I was there, several of my friends sent books ahead to my brother so I would get them before I came home. I received Drink Deep
, the fifth book in the Chicagoland Vampires series from Lyndsey at Strangemore
, along with two Aussie books I am on tours for, Blood Song
by Rhiannon Hart and Fiona Wood's Six Impossible Things
(I finished Drink Deep already and really enjoyed it! Oh, and she sent me the first season of Chuck to watch. Yay!)
I also practically peed myself in excitement over receiving a copy of Melina Marchetta's Froi of the Exiles
, the second book in the Lumatere Chronicles. (after Finnikin of the Rock
) My Goodreads pal, Catie, let me borrow her copy. I am intimidated by its length but so, so looking forward to it, especially considering that many reviewers have said it is even better than its predecessor. Today, the new Nora Roberts book showed up on my Kindle at midnight. I love Kindle preorders! (especially the ones I forget about!) Her books are like ice cream sundaes to me--hopefully tomorrow will be dull outside so I can snuggle up and get lost in the romance world.
I also picked up a copy of Liesl & Po
at the library that I put on hold a while back.
My friend Cassi and I are doing NaNoWriMo together this year. It will be a first attempt for both of us but hopefully it will be easier as a collaborative effort. Day 1 is almost over and we are right on track, but what kind of feat is that? ONE DAY. We are working on a YA science fiction story tentatively titled, "Processed for Entry." Excitement to the max. Hey, remember The Max on Saved By The Bell?
I love this show.