Wednesday, April 24, 2013


I typically don’t read mystery/thriller and police procedurals are a far cry from my comfort zone, but Defending Jacob by William Landay was a book club read, so I bared my teeth and read on.

Andy Barber is a DA in Boston, Massachusetts. When the murder of a kid who goes to his son’s school is discovered, Andy is the attorney in charge of the case. Shortly after starting the investigation, however, he is pulled off the case and asked to take leave because his son is the lead suspect in the case. What follows is the story of Andy and his family dealing with the investigation and trial of Jacob, Andy’s son.

The book is a police procedural from Andy’s perspective. The audience sees into the mind of a former DA and gets the nitty gritty on how court proceedings work, witnesses act, and justice is not always so just. If you enjoy Law and Order this may be right up your alley. The court details and testimony bored me for the most part. Personally, I enjoy police shows, but those only last an hour and aren’t as in depth as this book. It was certainly interesting to hear about how attorneys work their craft and seduce the jury, and about how evidence and testimony are used and misused. Interesting and frightening.

The ending to the book was a bang, but without any follow up, leaving the reader guessing what really happened. I wanted more and it just ended. After reading through pages of boring details about whether blood would spatter or just pool, I wanted a bit more information about the big events at the end.

Landay went to law school and his knowledge is put to good use in this book. Although I was not a fan of the plot of the novel, I found Landay’s scope and writing intriguing. The illusions to what would happen (“we didn’t know at that time…”) both annoyed and compelled me. I wanted to know what was coming, but I also hate those cheap tricks.

All in all, not my cup of tea. Although I felt it lacked a few more details at the rich parts and too many details at the mundane sections, the insight into a lawyer's mind was a different experience that I can see a lot of people enjoying.

Here are some read alikes:
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

The Good Father by Noah Hawley

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Friday, April 19, 2013

Mythical Woods

After reading the book, The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, I started recommending it a lot and thus started looking for read alikes. I found Touch by Alexi Zentner. Both have similar qualities. They take place in Alaska (Snow Child) and British Columbia (Touch), which are neighbors and share harsh climates, deep woods, and difficult living. Both stories are in the genre of magical realism, a genre characterized by its use of reality or real life situations with a few mystical elements. Everyday life is the same, but there is one thing that is magical or different whether it’s a character’s ability to do something out of the ordinary or occurrences. Both books deal with the settling of wild lands. In my opinion, both were fabulous books.

Stephen is a middle aged man living in the 1940s with three daughters of his own, and he has moved back home to Sawgamet. His mother is on death’s doorstep and therefore, Stephen begins relating the story of his parents and grandparents and the founding of this town. Each story pulls you through time and illustrates the rich history of this family and place. Jeanot, Stephen’s grandpa, walked to Sawgamet and made it his own, discovering gold and then the richness of the trees. He began a lumber company, continued by his son, Stephen’s father. The stories have magical elements thrown in, such as the appearance of strange creatures and ghosts, but it is not a foreign world.

This is a storyteller’s novel. Stephen is certainly a storyteller, relating each story to the audience, and the novel had the rhythm, flow, and language of a storyteller. It was well done. I got lost at points with which story belonged to what person, but I wanted to keep discovering more about these people and this mysterious place. I also wondered at the end what the point was. Was it just to remember times gone by as the last of an older generation died or was a missing the point?

This was truly a novel that was more about the journey than the end result and it was beautiful. The writing is atmospheric taking you to the brink of the known world and sending you into an untamed forest where creatures only spoken about in legend still roam.

It seems I have a penchant for backwoods magical realism. I also seem to love tales told in the storytelling style. They feel more natural and flow with ease. Zintner did a wonderful job with this novel. It makes me long for the distant woods and the mystery of nature. Perhaps I’ll take a lesson from Thoreau and shrug off society for the blessings of nature. Then again, maybe I need to work…

If you’re a fan of the settling of forest lands, or magical realism, or this kind of storytelling narration, here are some read alikes:

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Gathering of Waters by Bernice McFadden

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

Wild Life by Molly Gloss

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Persian Giggles

My job requires me to talk about books and reading. You can imagine how much I hate this (read: sarcasm). Well a week ago I told a coworker to pick out a book for me to read. Something that maybe I would not read on my own, but wasn’t leaps and bounds out of my comfort zone. She gave me Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas.

The book is a memoir of Dumas’s experience growing up as an Iranian in America. It focuses on her family, with an emphasis on her father, and her experiences as a foreigner in this country. Her family originally moved to California before the Iranian Revolution, so her experiences before and after those events took place completely changes her outlook on life in the US. Although it has its serious points, this is a fun read. From going to a sleep away summer camp to bringing stuffed grape leaves to school events, Dumas’s retelling is humorous and light hearted.

Although I was not laughing out loud, I did find the light tone of the book easy to read and fun to pick up. Dumas speaks to the reader in an accessible way and although her family’s cultural background is very different from my own, her stories rang a bell. I found myself nodding along as she retold her stories of family eccentricities because they sounded a lot like things my family did or would do.

If you’re up for something light and enjoy a different perspective on our American life, try Dumas’s book.
Here are some similar reads:

  • Laughing Without an Accent: adventures of an Iranian American, at home and abroad by Firoozeh Dumas

  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

  • Journey from the Land of No: A girlhood caught in revolutionary Iran by Roya Hakakian

  • Lipstick Jihad: A memoir of growing up Iranian in America and American in Iran by Azadeh Moaveni

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Austen Fan Fiction: "Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman" trilogy

These Three Remain by Pamela Aidan is the finale of the “Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman” series. Previously, I reviewed Duty andDesire the second in the series. I thought I’d wait a bit in between the two, but I just really wanted to know Darcy’s perspective on the events after he proposes, is rejected, then saves the day, thus I finished the third installment.

Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman #3
These Three Remain begins with Darcy going to visit his Aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh and running into none other than Miss Elizabeth Darcy, the woman he has just forsworn to forget. Instead of forgetting her, however, he endeavors to embrace his emotions and ask for her hand. He is rejected. Thus ensues the story of Darcy’s humbling, hurt, and self-discovery. The story ends with the double wedding of Darcy to Elizabeth and Bingley to Jane.

The final chapter in the trilogy was enjoyable. I was propelled forward by my desire to see how Darcy’s feelings advanced and how he and Elizabeth ended up together. The details given over how Darcy felt about the rejection and his further actions in response to his rejected proposal were enlightening, but often a bit wordy. The description did not need to be so elaborate. After a while, it became tiresome to read about his hurt feelings. Though I enjoyed reading about his dealings with Lydia and Wickham and the lengths he went to in discovering them and marrying them.

 I found that I truly liked the character of Dy, one of Darcy’s old friends, who has an intriguing side of his own. Georgiana was a wonderful character as well. She was still a shy young girl, but underneath all of that is an intelligent woman who wants to learn and is capable of running her own life.

The ending was what was to be expected. Although, I must admit, I’m always a little thrown off by the sudden pairing of Darcy and Elizabeth. The three novels that Aidan wrote helped explain Darcy’s side, but it is still sudden after being so unsure of the other’s emotions that they end up together and marry so quickly. Darcy is keeping his distance and then a day later, he’s whispering sweet nothings and kissing Elizabeth’s hands. Then they’re married in no time. Where’s the courting? I love me some Pride and Prejudice but the ending is always abrupt, and this book did not change that.

Some of the plot points did not wrap up well. I felt that Aidan should spend some words on explaining what happened in certain events, like with Lady Sayer, and less time talking about Darcy’s nagging feelings.

All in all, I enjoyed the books, the first and third more than the second. The trilogy is an inspired look into the mind and happenings of Mr. Darcy, and Aidan does a fine job of writing in the style of Miss Austen. There were some loop holes that threw me off, but, for the most part, a charming fan fiction.

Again, if you want a similar read to this trilogy, try these:

  • The Three Colonels by Jack Caldwell
  • Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange
Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman #2
Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman #1