Monday, February 20, 2012

CBR4 #9 Defending Jacob- William Landay

Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.

Every parental instinct Andy has rallies to protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him. Andy must. He’s his father. But as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own—between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive.

Award-winning author William Landay has written the consummate novel of an embattled family in crisis—a suspenseful, character-driven mystery that is also a spellbinding tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying speed at which our lives can spin out of control.
I received a hardcopy of this book via Random House's EarlyBirdRead Program

I know many reviews compare this book to Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent, but I thought this book also had similar themes to Helen Schulman's This Beautiful Life.  Both books capture how a family reacts when one of their children is part of a scandal.

This book is told within a grand jury transcript of the father's testimony.  The reader doesn't find out why the father is testifying until 5 pages from the end of the book.  A smart reader will see some foreshadowing early in the book around why the father might be testifying.

Even with all the crime/detective dramas on TV, it was interesting to read how a case might be defended.  Unfortunately, halfway through the book I got tired of the case/trial and I was ready for the outcome to be shared.  I felt the last 20 pages were really unexpected and a little under developed.  Landay does incorporate some modern twists into the investigation by including references to Facebook.

While there were some interesting plot twists, I wouldn't say this book was written any better than any other mystery/thriller I've read in the past year.

CBR4 #8 The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead. Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.
February Book Club Selection

At first I had a hard time following the book as each chapter goes forward or backward in time.  I think the book would have flowed fine if the chapters would have been chronologically ordered.  Also it seems like the magic part of the book was the main focus on the plot, but the more that you kept reading the more the magic was present in little ways.

I definitely enjoyed the Marco & Celia interactions and how they fought against the preconceived notions by their "puppetmasters" in order to be together in the end.  The story of Bailey & Poppet was very cute as well.  It was interesting to "explore" the circus with Bailey or Herr Thierson or the unknown narrator of the "present-day" circus.

There was a good sense of mystery surrounding all the characters.  I found myself taking my time reading this book and savoring the story as I didn't want the book to end.   

CBR4 #7 The Romanov Prophecy - Steve Berry

Atlanta lawyer Miles Lord, fluent in Russian and well versed in the country’s history, is thrilled to be in Moscow on the eve of such a momentous event. After the fall of Communism and a succession of weak governments, the Russian people have voted to bring back the monarchy. The new tsar will be chosen from the distant relatives of Nicholas II by a specially appointed commission, and Miles’ job is to perform a background check on the Tsarist candidate favored by a powerful group of Western businessmen. But research quickly becomes the least of Miles’ concerns when he is nearly killed by gunmen on a city plaza.

Suddenly Miles is racing across continents, shadowed by nefarious henchmen. At first, his only question is why people are pursuing him. But after a strange conversation with a mysterious Russian, who steers Miles toward the writings of Rasputin, he becomes desperate to know more–most important, what really happened to the family of Russia’s last tsar?

His only companion is Akilina Petrov, a Russian circus performer sympathetic to his struggle, and his only guide is a cryptic message from Rasputin that implies that the bloody night of so long ago is not the last chapter in the Romanovs’ story . . . and that someone might even have survived the massacre. The prophecy’s implications are earth-shattering–not only for the future of the tsar and mother Russia, but also for Miles himself.
I heard author Steve Berry talk in Dallas in January and decided that I wanted to read some of his backlog.  I decided to focus on the two novels that weren't part of his Cotton Malone series.  I found this book a good refresher on Romanov history.

I had a hard time believing that Miles Lord, a very resourceful lawyer, just trusted everyone.  Often times during the book being that trusting got him into trouble.  I can see how Steve Berry was influenced by Dan Brown throughout the book.  Miles and Akilina fulfilling Rasputin's prophecy was just a little too convenient.  I do give Steve credit for bringing some of the action to the US and how the pieces of the puzzle had to stand up to the technical enhancements from the late 1800s.  I also appreciated that Steve explained what was real based on history versus his imagination at the end of the book.

Overall this book is great read and Steve Berry is a very engaging author to hear speak in person.