Addition: E-book
Genre: Fiction, legal-thriller
Rating: 4 out of 5

The life of a ten-year-old girl is shattered by two drunken and remorseless young men. The mostly white town reacts with shock and horror at the inhuman crime. Until her black father acquires an assault rifle and takes matters into his hands.

For ten days, as burning crosses and the crack of sniper fire spread through the streets of Clanton, the nation sits spellbound as young defense attorney Jake Brigance struggles to save his client’s life…and then his own.

I have read a few novels by John Grisham and have enjoyed all of them. This is the first novel Grisham wrote, back in 1989. This is also the first book in the Jake Brigance series. The second novel is Sycamore Row, which was published in 2013.

It is hard to summarise this novel without giving too much away. The opening chapter was a tough read – two drunk white men get their hands on a ten-year-old black girl and have their way with her in the most awful way. She is left to die, but once found and cared for, she is able to identify her attackers. They are taken to court, where on their back to their transportation, they meet her father, who is armed. The rest of this novel follows Jake Brigance, who is tasked with trying to save the father from the ultimate punishment – the death sentence – in a district were racism is still rife. He also has to try and protect himself, as the Klan are keen to see the end of the white lawyer who defends a black man.

This wasn’t a quick read, and there was a lot of legal jargon I didn’t even try to follow, but this is probably one of the best books I have read this year. The first few chapters were horrendous to read – what happened to that girl was awful beyond words. I found it quite difficult to read, and it unsettled me every time we were reminded what happened to her. Once we were past the opening though, I found myself gripped. I’m not sure “enjoy” is the right word, but in want of another word, I did enjoy this book. I found myself in a moral dilemma. The father needed to pay for his crime, but he was avenging his daughter. I couldn’t decide if I wanted him sent to jail or let off completely. The jurors has the same problem, and I’m still not sure I am pleased with the outcome.

I wasn’t really bothered by the main character, Jake, but I don’t feel that this was a novel where my opinion of the characters mattered. Some of them were entertaining, some of them I disliked, but that didn’t make or break the story for me. The focus of the book was the trial, not whether I liked Jake or the decisions he made in his personal life.

This is a story that is hard for me to comprehend. Growing up and living in England, I have very limited experience for racism, especially not on the scale of the American white/black divide. It was eye-opening and shocking to see the depths that this racism extends. This novel isn’t that old, and yet the Ku Klux Klan feature heavily in the story, terrorising any white person who associates with a black person. I am just shocked that this behaviour, these attitudes exist in any form in the world today.

Like I said, this is one of the best books I have read this year. It isn’t for the faint-hearted – the opening chapters are truly awful, and really upsetting; but once past that, this is an excellent read. It is well written, there is suspense and drama. There was a load of legal stuff I didn’t understand, but that didn’t spoil the story. This is a great legal thriller, with the ultimate twist: what happens to the Dad? I am rating this book 4 out of 5, and would highly recommend it. I am looking forward to reading Sycamore Row, the second in the Jake Brigance series.

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The 45th book in 2014 was another from my Mount TBR Challenge – John Grisham’s Playing For Pizza. This is the second Grisham novel I have read this year, and it was very different to The Racketeer! Grisham has stepped away from his law thrillers, and taken us into the world of American Football – albeit in Italy! I wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel, but I actually really enjoyed it. I do watch NFL with my husband – we are Chicago Bears fans – so I understood some of the football, but a lot of it was a bit beyond me! However, that didn’t spoil this book. It was a good read, I read most of the book in one sitting. I loved the setting, the characters and the passion. This is a worthwhile read, even if you don’t understand American Football.

Addition: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Published: 2007
Rating: 3 out of 5

In case you are interested, back in 2012 we were lucky enough to have a holiday in America – we spent a week in Chicago with my husband’s family, and here we are outside Soldier Field before our tour. We didn’t get to see them play, although we did see the Bears play at Wembley a few years ago, but we did see some college football. We saw the Northwestern Wildcats play Boston College. It was a great holiday!

outside Soldier Field

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Addition: Paperback
Genre: Thriller, law fiction
Published: 2012
Rating: 4 out of 5

Given the importance of what they do, and the controversies that often surround them, and the violent people they sometimes confront, it is remarkable that in the history of the USA only four active federal judges have been murdered. Judge Raymond Fawcett just became number five. His body was found in the small basement of a lakeside cabin he had built himself and frequently used on weekends. When he did not show up for a trial on Monday morning, his law clerks panicked, called the FBI, and in due course the agents found the crime scene. There was no forced entry, no struggle, just two dead bodies – Judge Fawcett and his young secretary. I did not know Judge Fawcett, but I know who killed him, and why. I am a lawyer, and I am in prison. It’s a long story.

I have read a few John Grisham novels over the years, starting with the Rain Maker, but it is my husband who is the Grisham fan in our house. I borrowed The Racketeer from a friend for my husband to read and he really enjoyed it. In fact, he read it in one weekend, which is quite unusual for him. He recommended the novel to me, so I thought I would try it, and I am really pleased I did.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this novel. The previous Grisham books I have read have focussed around lawyers fighting injustices in court. This book is slightly different – it is a lawyer seeking revenge on the FBI who have put him in jail. I looked at some of the Goodreads comments before reading this novel and it is a mixed bag. A lot of the hardcore Grisham fans seemed disappointed with this novel as it isn’t his usual style, but as someone who dips into his novels, I liked it. I found the story engrossing and I of course did not work out the twist. I kept saying to my husband “where has so-and-so appeared from and what is their link in the story”, but he wouldn’t tell me! I was intrigued by the story and was guessing up until the end.

I started off by liking Malcolm Bannister, but as the story progressed I found myself disliking him! In fact, I’m not sure I liked any of the characters. Not one of them sticks out in my mind as one I related to or even cared for as I read the book. However, this book has a good story so the lack of likable characters didn’t bother me at all.

I enjoyed this book. I thought it was well written with a good twist. I am pleased I borrowed it for my husband and then chose to read it myself. I even then passed it on to my Mum, who also enjoyed it. Grisham still writes about a lawyer, this novel just has a different spin on the role of the lawyer. I didn’t guess the ending and did have the “oh, I get it now” moment. I thought this was a great read, different from the novels I tend to read. It was exhilarating and fast paced. I was hooked from the beginning and can happily rate this book 4 out of 5.

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The next book for me to read in 2014 was John Grisham’s The Racketeer. I have only read a few Grisham novels but each time I do enjoy them. The first Grisham I read was The Rainmaker, one family holiday many years ago! I have a Grisham novel, Playing for Pizza, on my 2014 Mount TBR pile. I will at some point this year get to that!

My husband read The Racketeer first. He isn’t a massive reader but he read this book in one weekend and then recommended it to me. I really enjoyed this book. The book follows Malcolm Bannister, a lawyer in jail after the FBI sets him up, as he plans and executes revenge against the FBI. There is of course a twist but I am not very good at guessing them and so didn’t try. I read the majority of this book in one evening and really enjoyed it. There are mixed reviews on Goodreads, mainly from avid Grisham fans, but I haven’t read many of his books so I don’t have much to compare it too. The book kept my interest and I found I wanted to know what was going to happen. I’m happy to rate this book 4 out of 5 as it was a good read.

Addition: Paperback
Genre: Fiction, thriller
Published: 2013
Rating: 4 out of 5

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skipping christmas

Waterstones Synopsis

Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded shops, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That’s just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether. Theirs will be the only house on the street without a rooftop Frosty the snowman; they won’t be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash; they aren’t even going to have a tree. They won’t need one, because come December 25 they’re setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But, as this weary couple is about to discover, skipping Christmas brings enormous consequences – and isn’t half as easy as they’d imagined. A classic tale for modern times, Skipping Christmas offers a hilarious look at the chaos and frenzy that has become part of our holiday tradition.

I have only read a couple of John Grisham books, which I have enjoyed, and even though this is not his ‘classic’ work, I really enjoyed this book too. In Skipping Christmas Grisham looks at the madness that Christmas has become – throwing huge parties, drunkenness, spending heaps of money, and the ridiculous decorations. He looks at the idea of just not participating in this game, and the reactions people have to that idea. And he did it so well.

This book is very funny. From a practical sense I can see why someone would be tempted to miss out the celebration – especially in the case of the Krank’s, when they were paying over $6000 on the holiday. I think Grisham is writing a brave book here because people do spend a large amount of money and he seems to be questioning if that is OK. I think he did it very well – although as lovely as the ending is I think he wimped out a bit. That said – parts of the ending were just hilarious, especially the incident with Frosty…

I liked the Krank’s, I found them very likable and enjoyable to read. I found myself feeling very sorry for them when they were seemingly victimised, especially by their neighbours. I also laughed along with them, and panicked when the phone call from their daughter came. I really connected them, and that made the book even more enjoyable.

This book is 200 pages long, and I read 150 pages in one sitting. It is quick, funny and hugely enjoyable. This is a really good Christmas novel. With a slightly different ending this would get tops marks.


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