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« April, 2005 »
King of Torts

Picked this up at a library book sale. It’s a more traditional Grisham story about the guy who gets sucked into a life of big money lawyering with a semi-anonymous tip about a lucrative mass torts claim. Nothing very spectacular and a little duller than Grisham’s other works because of the relentless brand name signifying and fairly traditional Grisham themes. Enjoyable but nothing to pay real money for.

Protect and Defend

The more I date my law school boyfriend, the more I seem to read and enjoy political thrillers. This is an in-depth back and forth over the nuances of abortion in the guise of being sort of a classic tale of the nomination and confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice in the first weeks of a new presidency. The story centers around an America just a wee bit in the future where legislation has passed banning late term abortions without the consent of the parents. A young girl with pro-life parents gets pregnant, waits too long, discovers she had a hydrocephalic fetus, and all hell breaks loose. She wants to abort, her parents won’t let her, they go to court with her Dad, somewhat overdramatically, playing opposing counsel.

Everyone’s got a dog in this fight. The new President is trying to get his choice for Supreme Court Chief Justice approved yet she has no record on abortion at all, though she does have a secret. The President has his own secrets, as does nearly everyone else in this tale. It’s a long involved political brinksmanship game that only rarely resorts to the tired device of putting the political argument directly into the mouths of the characters. Instead we just see the complicated story get more and more complicated with Senators trying to curry favor and outguess the other one as they decide what to do about the political climate and the case slowly creeping its way towards the Supreme Court. Not a tough book by any stretch but a long involved one with more to chew on than I usually expect from Patterson.

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2004

I will read whatever Dave Eggers edits, I just can’t stand the things he writes. In fact, I skipped his introduction entirely. This series is clearly aimed at people like me. The covers are colorful and usually done by known comics artists, this one was by Adrian Tomine who I have always had a crush on. The selections are from things I already read and contain some writing by people I already know. In this case, I read a story by Thom Jones that I hadn’t read before and stumbled across a David Sedaris story that I had only heard read aloud.

Of course, there is the “usual suspects” problem where I wonder if David Sedaris needs any more print time, but many of these authors wrote things that I thougth were delightfully inventive and I would have otherwise never seen. There is a story about a lion hunter in New York City and an essay [because this is both fiction and non-] about that guy who lives in the airport and what he is really like. Most of the stories washed over me with their style and wording and if I was still a bus commuter, I would have travelled far beyond my stop because I was so engrossed in this. Don’t let the Eggers name scare you, there is good writing here.

A Stir of Bones

This was a YA title that my friend Sharyn gave to me. It’s about a group of kids who come upon a haunted house, make friends with a ghost and learn about the house’s history. At the same time, the narrator is coming to grips with an abusive father and her own issues dealing with that. It’s a good if somewhat breathy purple-proseish story. I liked it, but didn’t totally love it though I enjoyed the characters and their interactions. Apparently it’s a prequel to another novel by Hoffman which is more geared towards an adult readership and I’ll probably look that book up when I have the chance.

The Street Law Handbook

The Street Law Handbook is fun to read and will teach you something at the same time. The core premise of this book is that while we may be interested in big court cases, and watching a lot of Law & Order on TV, a lot of what people really want to know is “What is likely to get me in trouble, and how much trouble will I be in?” Viswanathan takes a handbook-type approach to this problem and tackles infractions such as drug laws, sex/nudity/decency laws and basic petty crimes. She discusses what the infractions are like, how the laws vary from state to state and what sort of penalties you are likely to get for them in major cities across the US.

While this book is not a “how to” handbook of how to get in trouble, it defintely does give you some how-to-do-it advice, particularly about drugs which was an odd side note to an otherwise fairly legalistic book. She uses many examples to highlight various trouble people could get in and made the unfortunate style-decision to use jokey type pseudonyms for the people involved which overall lowered the tone of the book which otherwise tried to give good legal advice, albeit in an informal manner. Anyone who reads the papers, in many cases, would have known who she was writing about anyhow, so going to lengths to call your characters Jack and Jill when everyone knows she’s talking about Mary Kay Letourneau seemed weird and stilted.

A Walk in the Woods

Greg and I read this book out loud to each other in the evenings over a period of several months. Bryson is a bit hard to read out loud. He’s a great writer, very smart with words and wordy with sentences. However, much like this trip he takes, in fact, he tends to ramble all over the place making you read ahead three words for every word you read out loud. We both loved this book. Bryson starts down South determined to get to Mount Katahdin in Maine by the end of the season. He both does and does not accomplish this. Along the way he spends time with an old friend, learns way too much AT history and even gets himself in a bit of shape.

This book isn’t quite, as the back cover blurbs call it, “hilarious.” There are some pretty funny parts, definitely worth chuckling over, but just when you think you’re in for a rip-roaring good time, Bryson will tell you the stories of what happened to the American Chestnut tree, or discuss hikers who have been murdered, or how development is encroaching on the rest of Americas wilderness, and you sober right up. This was a perfect read for when we had to sit inside and look out at the freezing Vermont landscape and just try to remember what a tree smelled like, or a long walk felt like. Bryson’s practically a neighbor and I was suprised how much his perception of much of this area is not unlike my own. Definitely one of the best books of this year so far.