Sunday, February 26, 2012

Book Review: Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwell

Hello Readers!

I feel like it's been ages since my last post. As my grad school courses have progressed, I'm finding less and less time to read.

However, I submitted this week's assignment yesterday. Today we're getting 1-4 inches of snow with 40 mph winds, so it's the perfect day to declare Lazy Sunday and stay in to read all day.

I've been reading Patricia Cornwell's novel Port Mortuary for a little less than three weeks now. A friend, Candice, loaned it to me almost one full year ago. I'm still working to make it through all the books on my shelf. Somehow, the number of unread books/audiobooks increased to 170?!?! Darn! I'm trying to get it below 150, but it's so hard to turn down a good book!

Anyway, back to the review. Here's the summary of Port Mortuary, via Goodreads:

Port Mortuary, the title of Patricia Cornwell's 18th Scarpetta novel, is literally a port for the dead. In this fast-paced story, a treacherous path from Scarpetta's past merges with the high tech highway she now finds herself on. We travel back to the beginning of her professional career, when she enlisted in the Air Force to pay off her medical school debt and found herself ensnared in a gruesome case of what seemed to be vicious, racially motivated hate crimes against two Americans in South Africa. Now, more than twenty years and many career successes later, her secret military ties have drawn her to Dover Air Force Base, where she has been immersed in a training fellowship to master the art of CT-assisted virtual autopsy--a procedure the White House has mandated that she introduce in the private sector.

As the chief of the new Cambridge Forensic Center in Massachusetts, a joint venture of the state and federal governments and MIT, Scarpetta is confronted with a case that could shut down her new facility and ruin her personally and professionally. A young man drops dead, apparently from a cardiac arrhythmia, eerily close to Scarpetta's new Cambridge home. But when his body is examined the next morning, there are stunning indications that he may have been alive when he was zipped inside a pouch and locked insider the Center's cooler. Various 3-D radiology scans reveal more shocking details about internal injuries unlike any Scarpetta has ever seen. These suggest the possibility of a conspiracy to cause mass casualties. She realizes that she is fighting a cunning and cruel enemy that is invisible as she races against time to discover who and why before more people die.

In Port Mortuary, Patricia Cornwell brings Scarpetta together with Marino, Benton, and Lucy in an intimate way that is reminiscent of the early novels, and we welcome a voice we haven't heard in years. The point of view is Scarpetta's, and this is her story.

Lately, I haven't been very impressed with Cornwell's novels. I really loved her six years ago, when I was in high school, but just haven't enjoyed any of her books I've read recently. I was excited for Port Mortuary because it was supposed to be like her old novels. I thought this would help me to identify if it's me and my attitude that's changed, or if I just really don't like Cornwell's recent stuff. I think it's the second one.

This novel was extremely slow, in spite of the promise for a fast-paced thriller listed in the flap. I found myself daydreaming while reading because the novel was so far from engaging. Scarpetta didn't seem to undergo much change in the novel, and it was poorly written. For example, there are three explanations on pages 384-85 in the hardcover novel where Cornwell uses analogies with "as if..." If things are so similar to something else within a short span of pages, just come out and say it, please! I felt like she was beating a dead horse with the quantity of analogies used.

Readers, I'm sorry this sounds like such a negative review. Bottom line? I think Cornwell's lost her touch. If you're currently a Cornwell/Scarpetta fan, do check out this novel. You may enjoy it. If you're at all on the fence, like me, I would not encourage you to pick it up.

Here are my stats:
Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwell
Rating: 3/5
Pages: 496
2012 Reading Goal: 3,474/15,000

Seeing as how it is a lazy Sunday, I'm going to try to burn through one more book (a shorter one) if I can. Ahhhh, I sure do love lazy days...

Happy Readings! :)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Book Review: Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Hi everyone!

I'm a little later on this book review than I had hoped I would be, thanks to a crazy busy week at work.

Nonetheless, I recommend picking up this book in your shopping this week (online or in store), as it just came out on Tuesday, February 7th.

Here's the summary of Behind the Beautiful Forevers, courtesy of Goodreads:

Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter—Annawadi’s “most-everything girl”—will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call “the full enjoy.”

But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi.

With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects human beings to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds, and into the lives of people impossible to forget.

The description of this novel really caught my eye. I love to read novels in different worldly settings. While I've read novels depicting Indian life and culture, I have never experienced a novel like Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Boo, who is married to an Indian man and found the slums of Mumbai fascinating enough to write this story, exposes a culture of common Mumbai slum survivalists. There are also people in this novel that do not survive Annawadi, be it by their own hand or that of another. Scandal at all levels is exposed, and justice scarcely reigns over money.

The reading itself went by a little slowly, but just because the novel was so factually dense. As Boo is a journalist, I found much of the information she presented to be very much more setting based than I would have liked, with less personalization within the character development. I longed for more details about the Annawadians: their history, present, and plans for the future. I understand they may not have wanted to share all of that with a journalist following them around. Overall, I recommend this novel for those of you who enjoy reading about a culture so removed from that of your own.

Here are my stats for this novel: 

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
Rating: 3/5
Pages: 262
2012 Reading Goal: 2,978/15,000

Happy February readings! :)

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.