Michelle’s Review: Defending Jacob by William Landay


Michelle’s Review: Defending Jacob by William LandayDefending Jacob by William Landay
Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2012-01-31
Genres: Fiction, Legal, Psychological, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 432
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
four-stars
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Entertainment Weekly • The Boston Globe • Kansas City Star   “A legal thriller that’s comparable to classics such as Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent . . . Tragic and shocking, Defending Jacob is sure to generate buzz.”—Associated Press   NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERAndy Barber has been an assistant district attorney for two decades. He is respected. Admired in the courtroom. Happy at home with the loves of his life, his wife, Laurie, and teenage son, Jacob.Then Andy’s quiet suburb is stunned by a shocking crime: a young boy stabbed to death in a leafy park. And an even greater shock: The accused is Andy’s own son—shy, awkward, mysterious Jacob.Andy believes in Jacob’s innocence. Any parent would. But the pressure mounts. Damning evidence. Doubt. A faltering marriage. The neighbors’ contempt. A murder trial that threatens to obliterate Andy’s family.It is the ultimate test for any parent: How far would you go to protect your child? It is a test of devotion. A test of how well a parent can know a child. For Andy Barber, a man with an iron will and a dark secret, it is a test of guilt and innocence in the deepest sense.How far would you go?Praise for Defending Jacob   “Ingenious . . . Nothing is predictable. All bets are off.”—The New York Times   “Stunning . . . a novel that comes to you out of the blue and manages to keep you reading feverishly until the whole thing is completed.”—The Huffington Post   “Gripping, emotional murder saga . . . The shocking ending will have readers pulling up their bedcovers to ward off the haunting chill.”—People   “The hype is justified. . . . Exceptionally serious, suspenseful, engrossing.”—The Washington Post   “Even with unexpected twists and turns, the two narratives interlock like the teeth of a zipper, building to a tough and unflinching finale. This novel has major motion picture written all over it.”—The Boston Globe   “Yes, this book came out in January. No, we are not done talking about it.”—Entertainment WeeklyBONUS: This edition contains excerpts from William Landay's Mission Flats and The Strangler and a Defending Jacob discussion guide.

Defending Jacob was a book club read for me. I’m not sure I would have ever heard of it or read it if it had not been nominated and then selected by my club. A legal thriller is how many people describe it and I cannot think of any better way to label it.

There were periods of dialogue, whether it was between the different mothers at the school or between Andy and Laurie that had me cringing. It felt forced or I simply didn’t agree with either party in the conversation so it grew frustrating. But I don’t think any character in this book was supposed to be exactly ‘likable’.

I particularly enjoyed the excerpts from the transcript of the grand jury hearing that is sprinkled throughout. I like when plots braid a little bit and it definitely helped build intrigue.

I barely read the description of this book before going into and certainly stayed away from reviews. There was something about it that I knew had lead up a twist at the end and I wanted to be surprised.

But even by knowing that a twist was coming made me more alert to different clues left scattered throughout the novel. Whether it was a strange past tense or reflection with some hindsight, I would highlight phrases that I thought were suspicious. I even texted a fellow club member that had already finished the book that I was pretty sure that Andy was an unreliable narrator and some of my other suspicions.

And yet, I didn’t quite guess the actual twist. I was close, but didn’t guess right. So that’s quite something, I think.

The ending just felt a little…squashed somehow. All of a sudden all the ends were being tied up but not in the right order and without a real final moment for me. I wanted just like one or two more sentences at the end with some reflection or emotional confirmation.

But I definitely look forward to discussing this with my book club! I think there are lots of layers to this story that are great for that format and it was a quick/easy enough read to make for a great club pick. No wonder that ‘book club’ is the top genre for this book on Goodreads!

Christina reviewed this too!

pj - michelle

Christina’s Review: Defending Jacob by William Landay


Christina’s Review: Defending Jacob by William LandayDefending Jacob by William Landay
Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2012-01-31
Genres: Fiction, Legal, Psychological, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 432
Format: eBook
Goodreads
four-stars
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Entertainment Weekly • The Boston Globe • Kansas City Star   “A legal thriller that’s comparable to classics such as Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent . . . Tragic and shocking, Defending Jacob is sure to generate buzz.”—Associated Press   NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERAndy Barber has been an assistant district attorney for two decades. He is respected. Admired in the courtroom. Happy at home with the loves of his life, his wife, Laurie, and teenage son, Jacob.Then Andy’s quiet suburb is stunned by a shocking crime: a young boy stabbed to death in a leafy park. And an even greater shock: The accused is Andy’s own son—shy, awkward, mysterious Jacob.Andy believes in Jacob’s innocence. Any parent would. But the pressure mounts. Damning evidence. Doubt. A faltering marriage. The neighbors’ contempt. A murder trial that threatens to obliterate Andy’s family.It is the ultimate test for any parent: How far would you go to protect your child? It is a test of devotion. A test of how well a parent can know a child. For Andy Barber, a man with an iron will and a dark secret, it is a test of guilt and innocence in the deepest sense.How far would you go?Praise for Defending Jacob   “Ingenious . . . Nothing is predictable. All bets are off.”—The New York Times   “Stunning . . . a novel that comes to you out of the blue and manages to keep you reading feverishly until the whole thing is completed.”—The Huffington Post   “Gripping, emotional murder saga . . . The shocking ending will have readers pulling up their bedcovers to ward off the haunting chill.”—People   “The hype is justified. . . . Exceptionally serious, suspenseful, engrossing.”—The Washington Post   “Even with unexpected twists and turns, the two narratives interlock like the teeth of a zipper, building to a tough and unflinching finale. This novel has major motion picture written all over it.”—The Boston Globe   “Yes, this book came out in January. No, we are not done talking about it.”—Entertainment WeeklyBONUS: This edition contains excerpts from William Landay's Mission Flats and The Strangler and a Defending Jacob discussion guide.

I had to put down one book to start Defending Jacob for book club. I was not thrilled because the book I had to put down was A Dance with Dragons, but as I read Defending Jacob I was pleasantly surprised and found myself enjoying the book throughout. The story is about a father who is a DA for a quiet town. A shocking crime takes place in this town and a little boy is dead. As the case is investigated, the evidence present points in the direction of the DA’s son, Jacob. The author, William Landay, tells the story of Jacob’s conviction and trial through the eyes of his father. This allows the reader to connect with the love of a father and his dedication to proving his son’s innocence. How could his teenage boy commit such a horrific crime? Defending Jacob was a fairly suspenseful novel depicting the trial that took the town by storm and the affects it had on a once happy family. I was anxious to get towards the end conclusion to find out what actually happened and how Jacob’s father and the jury would react.

It is shocking how you may think you know a person…but do you really? There were secrets revealed throughout the book that really tests this. How well can you truly know a person and what skeletons will come out of the closet when given the opportunity? I felt the author worked these twists in well and spaced them out throughout the book to keep the reader thinking about what turn of events may take place and how they may affect the case, if at all. For example, I found the genetic component to be new and an interesting topic of conversation in the book. For me, this set the story aside from the usual crime-solving novels. In addition, this story set itself apart from other crime novels because it followed the case of an individual once they were convicted of a crime more than the usual following of the investigation process. It was unique and added a different type of suspense.

I liked the intersecting of the conversation going out between the “Witness” (Jacob’s father) and Neal Logiudice. This conversation was a different type of break between the story Jacob’s father was telling looking back on the past and the present discussion taking place reflecting on it. Later in the story, the witness testimony and cross-examination details were interesting and allowed the reader to experience Jacob’s trial for themselves.

There were a couple of minor details I would have liked to have seen in the book. The first was the addition of a funeral for the little boy found dead. I know this sounds weird, but there was no funeral mentioned. For me, I wanted to see the reactions of the town at this event in comparison to the reactions at the school and other social scenarios. Who attended the funeral… how did they react? However, this detail was overlooked. (Which may have just made the book longer and was not what the author wanted to focus on) Another detail that held me up was in the last chapter, the last few pages. Without revealing too much or leaking any spoilers, the story up to this point was told from the father’s perspective. These last few pages were not… they were details from an event he was not present for. I felt this was unnecessary and would have preferred to finish the story from Jacob’s father’s perspective and no one else’s. This allowed for the imagination to flow and develop its own reaction to the told events.

Overall, Defending Jacob was a quick read. I found the dialogue going back-and-forth throughout allowed the story to flow well and kept the pages turning. I finished the book in less time than I anticipated, and I enjoyed it all the way through. I recommend this book for book club readers especially… I can’t wait for the discussion that will come from this book and the different perspectives I can see people developing from their interpretations of the evidence and dialogues. I also recommend this book for any general reader interested in crime novels. It was a different take to the usual murder-suspects-questioning novels, and it had a number of twists that fit the story well. I enjoyed the author’s writing style and story-line, and I am glad I took the time to read this book.

pj - christina

Calvert’s Review: The Medea Complex by Rachel Florence Roberts


I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Calvert’s Review: The Medea Complex by Rachel Florence RobertsThe Medea Complex by Rachel Florence Roberts
Published by Createspace Independent Pub on 2013-11-01
Genres: Fiction, Psychological
Pages: 272
Format: eBook
Source: Author
Goodreads
three-stars
***Based On A True Story***Anne wakes up in a strange bed, having been kidnapped from her home. Slowly, she realizes she is in a lunatic asylum. 1885. Anne Stanbury – Committed to a lunatic asylum, having been deemed insane and therefore unfit to stand trial for the crime of which she is indicted. But is all as it seems? Edgar Stanbury – the grieving husband and father who is torn between helping his confined wife recover her sanity, and seeking revenge on the woman who ruined his life. Dr George Savage – the well respected psychiatrist, and chief medical officer of Bethlem Royal Hospital. Ultimately, he holds Anne's future wholly in his hands. The Medea Complex tells the story of a misunderstood woman suffering from insanity in an era when mental illnesses' were all too often misdiagnosed and mistreated. A deep and riveting psychological thriller set within an historical context, packed full of twists and turns, The Medea Complex explores the nature of the human psyche: what possesses us, drives us, and how love, passion, and hope for the future can drive us to insanity.

I started reading the Medea Complex way back in January. It was really slow to start for such a short book. The novel does pick up about halfway through, but never truly reaches a climax in the narrative. The ‘mystery’ that ties the characters together does not get much attention until two thirds of the way through the book, and is never really given enough detail to explain the motivations of Edgar and Anne Stanbury. The epilogue, while interesting historically, has no direct connection to the rest of the novel. It is an obituary for a character we neither meet or encounter indirectly. It is intended to lend credence to the idea of infanticide, but instead just seems out of place. I believe it would have been better served either as an addition to the sources included in the back, or as an article for an existing character to stumble upon, perhaps as a catalyst towards putting the pieces of Anne Stansbury’s mind together.

The novel looks at a very dark and intriguing period in mental health. However, the story itself disappoints. The short chapters that bounced between character perspectives combined with the thin layer of plot applied over historical research made the Medea Complex both frustrating and boring.

pj - calvert