John Grisham’s The Pelican Brief


Amazon.com: The Pelican Brief (Unabridged) by John Grisham, Read by Alexander Adams | Amazon

Grisham, J., & Adams, A. (1992). The pelican brief. Santa Ana, CA: Books on Tape. 9780736689113

Reasons for Reading:  As I enjoyed The Firm, I looked for some other books by Grisham. I saw The Pelican Brief audiobook on a shelf at HCPL.

Summary:  The deaths of two quite opposite US Supreme Court Justices rock the entire nation. These mysterious deaths leave the country wondering what the heck just happened. Tulane University Law student Darby Shaw sets out to research these odd circumstances. Afterwards, she writes a legal brief which states that assassins killed the two justices on behalf of oil tycoon Victor Mattiece. Mattiece wants to drill for oil in Louisiana marshland where an endangered species of pelican lives. Darby passes along “The Pelican Brief” to her law professor boyfriend Thomas Callahan. Quickly, more people die and Darby must run for her life.

What I Liked : I admired Darby a lot. She was smart and tried to do the right thing. I also liked Gray Grantham. I found Garcia intriguing.I appreciated the pace of the novel – mostly, Grisham got to the point. Oh, and nice Easter egg with Denton Voyles!

What I Disliked: So far, this is the third Grisham novel I’ve read. The ending seemed similar to that of The Firm. I might pick up one of Grisham’s non-legal thrillers next time.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: ‪Aretha Franklin – Chain Of Fools – YouTube

Setting : New Orleans, Louisiana, Washington DC, New York City, The Caribbean

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Denise Rinaldo’s Julius Caesar: Dictator (A Wicked History)


Julius Caesar: Dictator for Life (Wicked History) by Denise Rinaldo | LibraryThing

Rinaldo, D. (2010). Julius Caesar: Dictator for life. New York: Franklin Watts. 9780531212769

Reasons for Reading After I finished the Cleopatra biography, I wanted to know a little more about Julius Caesar. Yet, I didn’t want to read a 400 page book about him. That’s when I remembered the Wicked History Series. I checked out a copy from HCPL.

Summary Back in 100 BC, Rome existed as a democratic republic. Some consider this one of first democracies. Yet, Rome faced trouble – slave revolts, corrupt politicians, military coups, etc.

Rising from the Roman ashes, Julius Caesar eases the chaos. He ruthlessly attacked all who opposed him; including old allies. After winning the civil war, Caesar declared himself supreme ruler. The Republic ended with him. Not everyone liked that.

What I Liked This series of books delivers the facts in a concise, informative way. I appreciated learning the facts of Julius Caesar and his world without being bogged down in too many details.

What I Disliked Just one thing – I wished for more on Cleopatra.

Four Out of Five Pearls

Quote:

We should all be

very afraid. He is surely

making himself into a tyrant.

– Roman orator Cicero, on Caesar, 59 B.C.

Song: Tears For Fears – “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” – ORIGINAL VIDEO – YouTube

Setting: Ancient Rome, the Near East, Europe

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John Grisham’s The Firm


The Firm | WorldCat Detailed Record

Grisham, J., & Brick, S. (2002). The Firm. Santa Ana, CA: Books on Tape. 9780736688604

Reasons for Reading:  I saw blurbs an upcoming TV show based on John Grisham’s The Firm . It featured Josh Lucas as the main character. Yet, I hesitated to watch the show because I wanted to read the book first. (I’d seen the movie back around the time it came out on video.) Thus, I requested the audiobook via HCPL.

Summary:  Harvard Law student, Mitchell Y. McDeere, works hard. He and his college sweetheart wife, Abby, have next to nothing. McDeere’s brother, Ray, is imprisoned. As Mitch graduates third in his class, a small Memphis tax firm called Bendini, Lambert and Locke comes knocking. The firm offers him and Abby a life of luxury – a large salary, a low-rate mortgage on a house, a BMW, and vacations at company owned places in Colorado and the Cayman Islands. The McDeeres leap at this chance with little consideration for any possible catches. Soon, though, Mitch discovers things aren’t as wonderful as they first appeared.

What I Liked : This story about an attorney seems authentic and I think that’s due to Grisham writing what he knew. Not only did I appreciate this, I also liked that he broke things down in layman’s terms. While I’m not a law professional, I could easily follow the action. In my mind’s eye, I could see these characters and events.

What I Disliked: I only have one tiny complaint; I wished there had been dates offered for the action. Mitch’s brother Rusty died fighting in Vietnam. International flights were simple, pre-9/11. Very little takes place using cell phones or the Internet, too. Some time stamps would’ve been awesome.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: ‪Charlie Rich • No Headstone on My Grave – YouTube

Setting : Memphis, Boston, Washington D.C, The Cayman Islands

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Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller Series


The Lincoln Lawyer | Front Row Reviews

Connelly, M., & Grupper, A. (2005). The Lincoln lawyer. New York: Time Warner AudioBooks. 9781594830884

Connelly, M., & Giles, P. (2008). The brass verdict. New York: Hachette Audio. 9781600244018

Connelly, M., Giles, P., & Connelly, M. (2010). The reversal. New York: Hachette Audio. 9781600247255

Connelly, M., & Giles, P. (2011). The fifth witness. New York: Hachette Audio. 9781600247224

Reasons for Reading On my way home from England, I saw bits and pieces of Brad Furman’s The Lincoln Lawyer starring Matthew McConaughey. I enjoyed what I saw enough to request the audiobook via HCPL, I have since read all of the Mickey Haller series – thus far.

Summary These books are told by attorney Michael “Mickey” Haller, a street-wise defense attorney who practices law from the backseat of a Lincoln Town Car. Haller offers his services to the greater Los Angeles area, meeting clients wherever they may be. He’s on speaking terms with both of his ex-wives and aims to be a better father to his daughter Hayley. The series highlights Haller’s more unusual and that is true in the first book – The Lincoln Lawyer. Throughout the series, Haller faces his growing discomfort with representing the truly guilty.  

Review I really like the Mickey Haller/Lincoln Lawyer Mysteries by Michael Connelly.  While I may not always care for Haller, he seems realistic and he describes much of what goes on in trials in layman’s terms.I haven’t read of the Harry Bosch books that Connelly writes but I’m currently reading Nine Dragons where Haller makes a small appearance. So far, I liked The Reversal the best as there isn’t just one reversal at play in this book.

Four Out of Five Pearls

Song: ‪2Pac – California Love [HD] – YouTube

Setting :  Los Angeles, mostly

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Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy


Millennium Trilogy Bundle (3 volumes) by Stieg Larsson | LibraryThing

Larsson, S., Vance, S., & Random House Audio Publishing. (2008). The girl with the dragon tattoo. New York: Random House Audio. 9780307577580

Larsson, S., Keeland, R., & Vance, S. (2009). The girl who played with fire. New York: Random House. 9780739384176

Larsson, S., & Keeland, R. (2010). The girl who kicked the hornet’s nest. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 9780307269997

Things reached such a point that I felt I was the only one who hadn’t read the Millennium Trilogy. Spotting The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on the audiobook shelf at one HCPL, I decided to give the late Stieg Larsson a chance.

Mikhail Blomkvist, an iconoclastic publisher of Millennium, loses a libel suit in 2002 to billionaire Hans-Erik Wennerström and is sentenced to three months in prison. A little time passes when Blomkvist receives an invitation from Henrik Vanger, the retired CEO of the Vanger Corporation. Blomkvist doesn’t realize that Vanger commissioned an investigation into Blomkvist’s personal and professional history. This was carried out by Lisbeth Salander, a surveillance agent with Milton Security. Vanger requests an investigation into the 1966 disappearance of his grand-niece, Harriet. Salander is an eccentric genius with relatively few scruples. When Blomkvist and Salander collaborate, the bad guys better bar the door.

That’s how all the fun starts. I won’t spoil the latter two novels but I will say The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo lays the groundwork for the others. These must be read in order. Larsson developed compelling characters and situations which forced me to rubberneck. Normally, I prefer cozier mysteries but I had to see the story lines to their ends. Blomkvist came across as a James Bond type (Daniel Craig plays both 007 and Blomkvist, is this a coincidence?) while Salander isn’t terribly likeable. Still and all, I cared about these two. Blomkvist’s attorney sister, Annika Gianinni, was perhaps my favorite character; she truly shines in the third book. While much violence takes place within the Millennium Trilogy, Larsson did not support it. In fact, I’d say he was rather anti-violence. Another difference with this trilogy is that I liked the final installment, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, best.

A couple of personal preferences I’m compelled to mention: 1) Larsson wove much intertextuality into the series. I believe if I’d read these books prior to this series, I’d have a deeper appreciation. 2) I wish I had a better idea of Swedish geography. These places were lost on me. 3) Okay, I was overwhelmed by all of the Swedish names, especially since I listened to the first two books. 4) I thought it was cool when I read about Ikea and Securitas. 5) Yes, I want to see the movie!

Four Out of Five Pearls

Song: ‪How Soon is Now? – The Smiths – YouTube

Setting :  Sweden – mostly

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Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Feast of the Goat


The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa | LibraryThing

* A 1001 Books Book

Vargas, L. M., & Grossman, E. (2001). The Feast of the Goat. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. 9780374154769

I eventually picked up The Feast of the Goat for a few reasons – my latent interest in turbulent Dominican history, the book’s listing as a “Core” 1001 Books Book, and writer Vargas Llosa’s recent status as a Nobel Prize Laureate. Ironically, I finished the book around the fiftieth anniversary of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina’s assassination. So, I pulled this book off one of HCPL’s shelves.

Vargas Llosa offers three distinctly different storylines throughout the book –  the fictitious Urania Cabral in the 1990s, Trujillo’s assassins, and then Trujillo/El Jefe/The Goat. on his last day – 30 May 1961. The author alternates between these three points of view.

Storyline 1 – In the 1990s, successful attorney Urania returns to her native Dominican Republic for the first time in years. She visits her invalid father, the once powerful Secretary of State Agustin Cabral. Agustin fell out of favor El Jefe. Urania angrily recalls her last days in the DR with Agustin. Later, Urania relates her nightmarish coming of age to her aunt and cousins. The Cabral family was created by Vargas Llosa.

Storyline 2 – the assassins lie in wait on 30 May 1961 for Trujillo. These real-life killers are Antonio Imbert Barrera, Antonio de la Maza, Salvador Estrella Sadhalá – “Turk,” and Amado García Guerrero – Amadito. Each one bears the scars for want The Goat dead. Vargas Llosa based his characters on actual people.

Storyline 3 – Trujillo lives out his last day. El Jefe reminisces about his despotic career, his family, tough relations on the world stage, and his regular deflowering of young girls. Vargas Llosa took an actual dictator and made him even more villainous.

Vargas Llosa recreates the last days of the Trujillo Regime quite vividly. The feelings of desperation, hopelessness, and machismo pervade. The truest rendering of characters were the ones the author made up – the Cabrals. I found the “real people” rather suspect.

I’m happy I read this book because I could see connections to the writings of both Junot Díaz and Julia Alvarez. I wonder if Díaz used the name Cabral as a tribute to The Feast of the Goat. However, I found some parts – especially those from The Goat’s point of view, tedious and disgusting. I felt a need to wash out my eyes or something. Also, I liked that Urania found some peace in sharing her experience with the women of her family.

Three and a Half Out of Five Pearls

Song: YouTube – Antonio Morel y Su Orquesta feat Macabi “El Chivo”

Places : The Dominican Republic, The United States

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