Saturday, November 16, 2013

Book Review: The Racketeer

I read my first John Grisham novel, The Firm, during college. Immediately I was hooked and devoured everything he wrote for several years thereafter. My favorite Grisham story remains A Time To Kill...both the book and the movie (and thank you for introducing us to Texas-hottie Matthew McConaughey in that film...whoa!). 

But as time marched on, I realized that Grisham's legal-thriller novels followed the same recipe. An aspiring/young/disbarred lawyer has found himself/herself involved in crime/case/trial that encased concealment of government-related corruptness. Typically in a southern setting, the story lines often include racism and/or environmental-hazard issues related to big business.

Another complaint I have with Grisham's books is with the endings. He can write intense plot lines but the final chapters can be underwhelming and weak.

All that being said, I truly enjoyed reading The Racketeer. The story is about a jailhouse lawyer, Mal Bannister, who is half-way through a 10-year sentence for racketeering...charges for which he professes his innocence. A federal judge and his girlfriend have been murdered while Mal is on the inside, and there are no solid leads in the case. That is, until Mal offers credible information on the crime in exchange for his freedom. 

Mal's deposition about the murder is convincing, and he's set free from prison while the feds get their guy...or so they think. The ensuing story follows Mal and his conning "sticking it to the feds" plan as revenge in losing five years of his life (and his wife and son) for false racketeering charges.

This book is pure entertainment. Nothing about it will provoke deep thought or launch a career in public policy...although it may make you more leery of anyone involved in the government. And let's face it, you don't need to read fiction to be suspicious of politicians and their appointees.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Quote of the Day

"Simplifying is not necessarily getting rid of everything we've worked so hard for. It's deciding what's important to us, and gracefully letting go of things that aren't." -Elaine St. James

Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Review: The Night Circus

I was sucked into The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern rather quickly.  It’s an intriguing tale about a magical circus that is closed during the day, and opens at nightfall. The author gives exquisite detail of the enchanted black-and-white circus set in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The eccentric supporting cast of characters is guided by the mysterious powers of Le Cirque de Reves (The Circus of Dreams).

The two main characters, Marco and Celia, are illusionists who have been groomed since childhood for a contest of sorts, with the circus as the venue for their competition. They are supposed to be at odds with each other, but as fate would have it they fall in love…a sort of Romeo and Juliet forbidden romance.

The plot has all of the makings for an incredible novel. However, I found myself thinking the story was good but not great...and rather disjointed at times. Many of the characters are underdeveloped, with little purpose other than being a distraction. The competition between the two main characters was weak, and the love story was disappointingly flat.

I kept waiting for the big moment…the final showdown to learn if one of them would choose victory and glory over love. But alas, what should have been a grand finale of spectacular fireworks across the sky was actually a disappointing display of fizzling driveway bottle rockets. 

I was left wanting more.