July 31, 2012

Defending Jacob, by William Landay

As a parent, what would you do if your only son suddenly became implicated in the horrible murder of one of his class-mates? This is precisely the question Jacob’s parents must answer. In the quiet suburban town of Newton, Massachusetts, Jacob’s father, Andy Barber, is a highly respected assistant district attorney. When the body of a 14-year old boy is found stabbed to death in the town’s park, Andy is immediately on the case. But the case is going nowhere fast and the police have no suspects and no leads. Then clues and details start pointing towards Jacob as the prime suspect and Andy is taken off the case. How well does Andy really know his own son, and just how far will he go to protect him?

Defending Jacob, by William Landay is told entirely from Andy’s point of view, so all we know is what Andy knows. There is a lot of foreshadowing at the beginning of the book, setting the reader up to believe that Jacob really did commit this horrendous crime, but we never really know for sure if he’s the murderer. The descriptions and details of Jacob and his personality set you up to think he is, but Andy’s unwavering confidence in Jacob’s innocence often has you second guessing yourself. Andy is often blind to the obvious sociopathic-like traits that Jacob presents with, but I imagine as a parent, it would be hard to objectively see your child in that way. 

What I found most interesting about the story was that while Jacob was an extremely unlikeable teenager and seemed completely capable of killing his own class-mate, you wanted him to be found not guilty for the sake of his parents. From the time Jacob was charged with murder, his parent’s life as they knew it came crashing down. They were ostracized by their friends and neighbours, their life-savings were stripped and Andy's career was at stake.  I wanted desperately for Jacob to be innocent just so his parent’s could hopefully, somehow, regain their lives back. 

I don’t have a lot of experience with reading legal dramas, but I really enjoyed this book. It’s a quick read at just over 400 pages because so much of the story is dialogue. The court scenes were engaging and it was just as exciting as watching a court drama on TV.  It was a suspenseful read for the most part, and I found the book hard to put down as you want to know - need to know - whether Jacob is found guilty or not-guilty.  But then, just when you think the case is over and a verdict has been reached, a curve ball is thrown at you and all I can say is, I still get goose bumps when I think about it. It was definitely not the ending I was expecting and I believe it took the book from your typical run of the mill legal drama to a steady-paced legal thriller.  

Defending Jacob is a story full of legal mumbo-jumbo, there's no doubt about it, but more than that, it explores the infamous nature vs. nurture issue, loosely reminiscent of We Need to Talk About Kevin. A definite page-turner, and a story that had me thinking about it long after I turned the last page.

July 29, 2012

Building Bookshelves Part II

Back in June I posted about my new bookshelves that I was so proud of - you can see that post here if you missed it - and how I was excited to finally unpack my many boxes of books that had patiently been waiting in storage for the past eight months. The boxes have been unpacked and the shelves are finally full, so I thought I would share some photos of my bookshelves with you! Seeing other people's bookshelves is one of my favourite things to do when I go over to someone's house. It's interesting to see what others like to read and what books they choose to keep and display on their shelves.

Here's a before picture:

Pre-books and pre-secured to wall

If I didn't have a husband, I probably would have left the shelves all uneven and a potential safety hazard like that. Good thing I do have a husband, because now the three pieces look more like one big piece.

My library in all it's glory!
I actually purged approximately 4 large boxes of books this time around. I used to keep everything I have ever read, but now I get rid of the books I didn't like and would therefore either never re-read or never lend to someone else to read. I also purged a lot of books that I've out grown - like all the Candace Bushnell books (sorry to any Candace Bushnell fans!).

Here's a close-up:

Right now, I've organized the books alphabetical by author, with all genres mixed together. I've always wanted to try this, but I find it hard to really customize my shelves this way. I like to organize the books based on their appearance or colour. Either way, I feel it's an evolving process and will continually change as I accumulate more books! I also, reluctantly, had to give the husband two shelves for his books (right side, fourth and fifth shelf from the top). He's not even a reader, yet he had almost enough (unread) books to fill two shelves!

Here's a few close-ups of my favourite shelves so far:

My beloved thrift store finds, including an old Fisher Price 'The Woman Who Lived in a Shoe' Shoe.

My collection of well-loved paper-backs that take me back to my young teen years.
My husband and I LOVE pirates and will pretty much buy any pirate book we ever come across!

How do you organize your books on your bookshelves? Do you have a system? Which books do you decide to keep, and which ones do you decide need to go?

July 26, 2012

Let's Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson

I first discovered Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) on twitter sometime last year and from there, her blog. The first story of hers I ever read was the story of Beyonce, the 5 foot metal chicken.  Upon reading that story, I was instantly hooked on Jenny and her blog. I loved (love!) Jenny’s written voice - how she can be vulgar and self-deprecating and honest, all while making you choke on your coffee from bursting out laughing.  Seriously, don’t eat or drink while reading her blog or her book. But I think what so many of Jenny’s fans love about her, is the fact that beneath it all, she’s really just one of us. A little crazy (because really who isn’t?), a little very foul-mouthed, a little depressed, and a childhood full of embarrassing memories. She’s relatable and is able to find the humour in life that I wish I could write about as beautifully as she can. So needless to say, when she started tweeting about her book that was close to be published, I was so excited! 

I wasn’t sure what to expect from her book, to be completely honest. While it’s classified as a ‘mostly true memoir’, it could easily be shelved in the humour section. It’s up to you to decide for yourself what’s true and isn’t true, but I think it’s fair to say that stuff this crazy can’t be made up.  Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is essentially a scatterbrained compilation of essays. There’s no flow or noticeable order to the stories, but it works. She talks about everything from her crazy childhood growing up with a father obsessed with taxidermy;  how she met and then married her husband, Victor; their constant (but hilarious) bickering and bantering, complete with an argument captured solely on post-its; her struggles with conceiving their daughter, Haley; vaginal arthritis and of course, Beyonce.  I did a little shout of joy when I got to the Beyonce story. If you have no idea what I’m talking about you need to read this story here.  I devoured the book in a few sittings and made anyone within earshot listen to me re-read my favourite laugh-out-loud bits.  

If you are a big fan of The Bloggess like I am, then chances are you’ll have a hard time putting this book down. But this book would be also be a great “side” read – a book you can pick up and read a chapter here or there when the mood strikes.  I also REALLY want to listen to this book on audio now. I've heard it's fantastic and I can only imagine it's even funnier listening to Jenny read it. My only complaint with this book was the black and white photos. They were too small and it was hard to make out what was in the picture. I want big, colour pictures next time, Jenny!

If you're still not convinced to read this book, then I leave you with this - a piece of one of my favourite stories (if I had to choose just one!) about the time Jenny and her cousin find a Playboy magazine at her Grandlibby's house:
"Hey, Grandlibby?" I asked. "What's a 'turn-on'?"
She paled visibly, looking mildly ill. "Well," she said...struggling for words, "it's...um...the things that make you happy, I suppose?"
I turned to my cousin. "My turn-ons are Rainbow Brite and unicorns."
Michelle smiled back, her two front teeth missing. "My turn-ons are Monchhichis.  And Tubble Gum."
Grandlibby issued a terse, strangled laugh. "Yeah. I could be wrong about that. I don't speak real great English, you know.  Why don't you just never use that phrase again, okay?"                      

July 20, 2012

Certificate of Awesomeness

Last night, I was going through a pile of papers that had accumulated on my kitchen counter, when I came across this little gem. One day back in June, while I was at work at the book store, these two young girls approached me and handed me this "certificate" along with a lollipop. I was a little caught off guard, but then when I read what the piece of paper said, my heart swelled a little bit. Here were two young girls, going around handing out these pieces of paper to complete strangers all to promote reading*! I wanted to hug them, but I'm not a hugger, so I did the next best thing and engaged them in conversation and asked them what they were currently reading. I just couldn't get over how sweet and innocent the whole thing was.

Unfortunately, I didn't think to ask them their names, or if they had website or some way for other people to get involved - like a "pass-it-on" type thing. But I like to think they are still out there, handing out Certificates of Awesomeness to unsuspecting readers. (Even though us readers don't need any more convincing to be reading...but still.) The thought and effort is beautiful.

Little moments like this remind me that people are still reading and books will stick around for a long time.

*Obviously I wasn't reading while I was at work, but they said that because I worked in a book store, it pretty much counted as the same thing. So I am still awesome.

July 15, 2012

Saigon Sundays: The Dog of Many Faces

Jim and I get daily enjoyment out of the many different faces and "looks" that Saigon puts on. He has so much personality and we really can't get over it. He makes us laugh out loud several times a day and we take just as many pictures of him as first-time parents would of their newborn. I may be biased, but Saigon is one of the most photogenic dogs I've ever known.

The Many Faces of Saigon:

The "I don't want to sleep alone" face (which he's perfected I might add)

The "sucky" face (seriously, he sucks on pillows and blankets like a baby would)
Saigon's smiling face. He's so handsome.
The "crazy dog, half-asleep" face
The "I'm watching youuuuuu" face
The "I better get a treat after this" face
The "wakey-wakey" face  (he will stare at you like this until you open your eyes)
And my personal favorite: The "sleeping-bully" face