Monthly Archives: April 2012

Vaclav & Lena

There was a story about this book on NPR. Naturally, I wanted to pick it up. It is the story of two kids who are Russian emigrants and who are friends, until one day, Lena disappears.

Vaclav and Lena met when they were five. They were, for most of their childhood, their only friends. Vaclav dreams of being a famous magician like Copperfield or Houdini. Lena will be his lovely assistant. Lena lives with her aunt, who does nothing to take care of her. Lena spends most of her time with Vaclav. Then one day, Vaclav’s mom, Raisa, goes to check on Lena, who has not been at school. Raisa walks into Lena’s apartment and sees something that causes her to call the police. Lena is removed from the home and Vaclav doesn’t know where she went.

He never stops thinking about her. And when they are in high school, five years later, they find each other. Lena has been adopted by an American woman and she wants to go to Russia to find her parents. Vaclav loves her and says he’ll go with her. And that is where the plot synopsis ends.

I have mixed feelings about this book. It is well-written from the perspective mostly, of Vaclav and Lena. I like the way Hilary Tanner writes her dialogue to indicate they are not native English speakers. I liked the story. I was a bit dissatisfied with the ending, but that seems to be a recurring pattern lately.

The story is written in parts. The first part is written from Vaclav’s perspective. Then there is a small part written from Vaclav’s perspective when Lena disappears. Then there is the story of Lena. Part of my problem with book is that the thing that happens to Lena is really not dealt with. I suppose that in reality, that might be the case, but I thought that the book could have been longer. I found the ending to be abrupt.

It seems as though the author ran out of things to say. I read the story and found that I wanted to know more. I wish that the book had been longer. Overall, though, despite the ending, I liked the book. I was thinking about picking it for book club before I read it. And I might still. I’m just not sure. I do know that it’s worth the read.

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The Litigators

It should come as no surprise to those who know me that I read a lot of books related to the law. I read fiction and non-fiction about the law and have since I was a youngster. Since I love to read about the law, I was drawn to John Grisham’s books when The Firm first came out. I remember looking at the cover and thinking, “This might be good.” It was before all the buzz. I read most of his books…up to The Runaway Jury. I stopped reading him because I thought the books got predictable and kind of boring.

A friend of mine at work, let me borrow The Litigators. The story centers around three lawyers – two are ambulance chasing partners. The third works at a large firm in downtown Chicago. He works a zillion hours a week and one day, on the way to work, he flips out – has a panic attack, jumps back into the elevator and goes to a bar. At the bar, he gets rip-roaring drunk and ends up at the ambulance-chasing lawyers, Finley and Fogg’s law firm. He starts working there.

The book follows the three inexperienced litigators into the world of mass tort. They file a lawsuit against a big pharmaceutical company over a cholesterol lowering drug. Turns out that they probably jumped the gun and circumstances – and the drug company’s lawyers plot against them. They are over their heads.

I loved the book. Not because it was suspenseful (it wasn’t), but because it told the story of how law works in America today. Not to mention the fact that two of the lawyers violate about every ethical cannon there is. For those who don’t practice law, you may not recognize everything they do that’s wrong. But then again, some of them are so obvious you’ll see them no matter what you do. I want to make it required reading when I teach ethics again. There are so many things the lawyers do that are not ethical. Here’s a partial list: paying clients for referrals, showing up unsolicited at the hospital, showing up at the scene of an accident.

The book was entertaining and I can safely say it wasn’t a waste of my time. If you like Grisham, you’ll like the book. I liked most of the characters even the ones that you aren’t supposed to like. The plotting was good and fast-paced.

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The Lincoln Lawyer

I will start with a caveat (or two): I have not seen the movie and generally, the movie is never as good as the book. Though the latter isn’t usually true, most of the time, it is. Anyway, I got this book because I have read Michael Connelly’s other series.

I have a certain prejudice about lawyer books. I work in the law. So I get really annoyed when things are not portrayed accurately. Fortunately for me, Michael Connelly did his research. The book is about Michael Haller (Mickey) a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles. He gets a case from a very rich client, what he calls a franchise. The client swear he’s innocent and Mickey believes him.

Not giving too much away, the case takes him all kinds of places. Mickey is suspected of another crime and there are ties to other clients and other cases. Not only is the book accurate from a legal standpoint, it’s entertaining.

I enjoyed getting to know Mickey and his two ex-wives – one a prosecutor and the other his office manager. Michael Connelly writes mysteries the way I like them – with sufficient detail to put you there, and with enough left out so you can use your imagination.

This book certainly isn’t literary fiction, but it’s a fun ride and a good read. If you’re looking for entertainment, this book will fit the bill.

I just have to figure out whether I want to see the movie or leave well enough alone.

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