Tag Archives: law

Tomorrow Is A Long Time

Tomorrow’s a Long Time for Teen Lovers

Exposure: A Novel by Therese Fowler (Ballantine Books; $25.00; 384 pages)

Therese Fowler’s novel, Exposure, is the latest attempt to bring Romeo and Juliet to modern-day audiences.   In it two seemingly well-adjusted teens, Anthony and Amelia, fall for each other with Amelia shielding the relationship from her controlling father, Harlan, a wealthy automobile dealer.   The two attend a prep school in North Carolina where Anthony’s mother is an art teacher.   The young lovers are theater enthusiasts who meet during a school performance and conceal their intimate relationship.   They are hoping to head for the Big Apple after high school because Anthony aspires to attend NYU.

Anthony is described as an Adonis and Amelia as her father’s princess, on the cusp of womanhood and striving for her independence.   Nothing is easy, of course, and complicating their dream of running off to New York is the fact that her father, a colossal snob, will only accept the “right” man for her daughter.   That person is an equally well-bred snob, whom – in Harlan’s mind – Amelia will meet attending Duke University.

The relationship turns sexual soon enough and further complications ensue.   While on a family vacation, Amelia requests that Anthony send her naked pictures of himself, and he obliges.   Of course, Anthony is 18, and Amelia one year shy of “adulthood.”   Soon thereafter, Harlan discovers the pictures on her computer, setting off a chain of events that nearly destroys everyone in the story – the survivors’ lives are forever altered.

Anthony’s mother has tacitly approved of the relationship, often recalling her youth.   She eventually ends up trapped in the mire herself.   Amelia’s mother, who probably could have prevented the unraveling, is incapable of standing up to her husband as Harlan self-righteously declares all-out war on the boy.

Fowler does well early on to intersperses character development with the plot.   The story boldly tackles a contemporary issue – sexting.   The legal and education systems are dumbfounded as to how to deal with this matter.   Concurrently, teens seem ignorant of the magnitude and implications of their actions, while many parents appear relatively oblivious as to the extent of the problem.

Some might question how big of a deal sexting is in the first place, but this reviewer speculates that those people would quickly change their minds if compromising photographs of their 13-year-old daughter were circulating around school.

A minor critique is that the dialogue seems a bit forced at times.   The rest of the storytelling is strong.   Exposure is a worthwhile and relevant tale about the perils of growing up in a modern digital age where the standards of morality are ever changing.   Well recommended.

Dave Moyer

Dave Moyer is a public school superintendent in the state of Wisconsin.   A review copy was provided by the publisher. Exposure will be released on May 3, 2011.   “Provocative, timely, and compelling…”   Meg Waite Clayton

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Baker Street

The Brothers of Baker Street: A Mystery by Michael Robinson (Minotaur Books; $24.95; 274 pages)

“Everyone is entitled to the best defense available.   That doesn’t mean everyone is entitled to me.”

Snappy dialogue and well-described characters make this a charming riff on the legendary Sherlock Holmes detective mysteries.   Of course, the opening of the story is set in a privileged, upper class English home where a servant is tending to the needs and desires of an unidentified central figure.   The reader is not provided with any clues regarding the gender or age of the homeowner, nor the reason for their interest in the Daily News, a tabloid of sorts.

There is a direct tie to the 19th century literary character Sherlock Holmes that the reader discovers when the main character of this mystery novel, Reggie Heath, drives his Jaguar into the neighborhood where he works.   The office is located at 221 B Baker Street, London.   Reggie is a barrister, someone in the legal profession who represents lawyers in court.   This seems convoluted and layered, and it is distinctly British.   The office lease for this historic address comes with special terms and conditions.   Writers of letters to Sherlock Holmes, and there are many, must receive a timely written reply.   Reggie’s brother Nigel, who lives in the United States, is responsible for the replies; however, Nigel must return to London in order to play a part in the action in this story.

In the first book of this series, The Baker Street Letters, a letter for Sherlock Holmes drew Reggie to California.   Moreover, the chaos that ensued depleted his bank account and nearly ruined his reputation.   As is frequently the case with British mysteries, the mundane details are glossed over in favor of creating an illusion of surreptitious and clandestine meetings, great chases and general gallivanting about the countryside.   Happily, there are enough wonderful examples of these features to satisfy the reader’s need for a Holmes-like experience.   As always, a London taxi, actually a legendary Black Cab, features prominently in the action.

Author Robertson sets up duels of wits between Reggie and several other characters.   One of these characters is a modern day version of Holmes’ nemesis Professor Moriarty.   This reviewer refuses to divulge any more about the plot as it is engaging and deserves not to be spoiled.

Well recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was provided by the publisher.   The Brothers of Baker Street will be released on March 1, 2011.

“An extremely clever evil scheme will delight readers.”   Publishers Weekly

 

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Time Between

Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel (Harper; $24.99; 320 pages)

“It was so easy, I understood now, to take a wrong turn…”

“All the days have turned to years…”   Chris Hillman (“Time Between,” The Byrds)

This is a novel that finishes well.   This being said, the first half of the novel is a muddy bog.   I often felt as if I was reading the diary of an obsessive person who notices every detail but has no idea as to what meaning to attach to the aggregation.   Here is a sampling:

Paul stopped walking and I almost bumped into him.   I could see the pink of his skin through the translucent white of his T-shirt, the short hairs on the back of his neck.   “Look,” he said, pointing at the water.   By his foot, a blue crab skittered across the sand, then slipped underneath a rock.   …He offered me his hand and I took it, but only until I’d stepped over a wide stretch of coral.   We walked for an hour.   Paul spoke only to point out a creature or plant, and I spoke only to acknowledge him.   The flats surrounded our stilt home on three sides, and I’d never before walked to their far edges.

This is not quite scintillating reading, and there are 150 or so pages like this before the plotline begins to come together.   This is the story of a Miami couple and the events that happen to them and their daughter between the years of 1969 and 1993.   It seems to take forever to get to the 90s.

The future married couple at the center of this tale initially meet as young college students playing in a community of homes built on pilings in the waters of Biscayne Bay, Florida.   The collection of homes is known as Stiltsville.   It’s a community that will not last, one of the many things revealed to the reader before he/she actually needs to know it.   Susanna Daniel has the frustrating habit of setting a scene, the events involving the main characters, in current time before skipping forward to tell you what will happen later.   For example, her female protagonist’s first impressions of Miami are that, “…the city (Miami) seemed large to me…  though it would double in breadth and height and population during the time I lived there.”

This needless plot device is used far too many times.   In one odd instance, the lead character is telling us about today before she jumps to “nearly a year later.”   Contra, another time we suddenly shift from today to the events of the preceding day.   Later on, we’re reading about what’s happening to the family one evening before we’re abruptly shifted back to the supposedly related events that occurred eight months earlier.   All of this is far too clever to be interesting.

There’s also the problem of stilted language in Stiltsville.   Early on our female lead tells us that, “…after meeting Dennis, I saw in my own future bright, unknowable, possibilities.   I’m a bit ashamed to have been a person without much agency in life…”   Agency?   What reader knows a person who would use that word today…  and in Miami?   Her future husband Dennis, by the way, works for a successful law firm in Miami but seems to know little about law.   In one scene, he worries that he’ll be arrested by the Coast Guard (and quite possibly disbarred) for buying a boat from a person who may not have had clear title to it.   Any first year law student would tell him not to worry, but then this is fiction.

Stiltsville also includes some paths that lead nowhere.   At one point Daniel includes a thinly disguised take-off on the Rodney King case, except that it’s set in Miami rather than Los Angeles.   The reader is meant to get somewhat worked up about riots and the prospect of better communities being invaded before this side-story disappears.   It has nothing to do with the main story, so why was it included?

In the latter part of the novel, Daniel does create some quotable statements such as, “The cement of a marriage never dries.”   She also displays her cleverness in dropping a near tragedy into our laps before sidestepping it.   And, finally, there’s the point at which someone is affected by a devastating illness.   If Daniel had begun at this point she might have crafted a tight, compelling and fascinating debut.   Instead, Stiltsville exposes us to a writer of some potential who failed to put much of it down on the written page this time around.

This review was written by Joseph Arellano.   A review copy was received from the publisher.

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A Preview of a True Story

Unbillable Hours: A True Story by Ian Graham will be released by Kaplan Publishing on May 4, 2010 (256 pages, $24.95).   The sub-title of this non-fiction book is:  A Young Lawyer, Big Law and a Murder Case That Saved Two Lives.   Here is the publisher’s synopsis:

The story – part memoir, part hard-hitting expose – of a first-year law associate negotiating the arduous path through a system designed to break those who enter it before it makes them.

Landing a job at a prestigious L.A. law firm, complete with a six-figure income, signaled the beginning of the good life for Ian Graham.   But the harsh reality of life as an associate quickly became evident.   The work was grueling and boring, the days were impossibly long, and Graham’s sole purpose was to rack up billable hours.   But when he took an unpaid pro bono case to escape the drudgery, Graham found the meaning in his work that he’d been looking for.   As he worked to free Mario Rocha, a gifted young Latino who had been wrongly convicted at 16 and sentenced to life without parole, the shocking contrast between the greed and hypocrisy of law firm life and Mario’s desperate struggle for freedom led Graham to look long and hard at his future as a corporate lawyer.

Clear-eyed and moving, written with the drama and speed of a John Grisham novel and the personal appeal of Scott Turow’s account of his law school years, Unbillable Hours is an arresting personal story with implications for all of us.

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Oxygen

If you’re looking for something quite different, this is it.   Oxygen by Carol Cassella is an interesting medical-legal tale told from the perspective of a practicing anesthesiologist.   In this story, Dr. Marie Heaton is the anesthesiologist who tells the mother of a young girl going into surgery, “I’m going to keep her very safe for you.”   Then the child dies on the operating table mid-procedure.

The death begins the unraveling of the doctor’s life professionally and emotionally, as she faces a civil suit and perhaps even criminal sanctions.   Cassella (an English literature major at Duke before completing medical school) is excellent at creating tension to the point where lights seem to dim as you move further along in this living nightmare.

The reader relates fully with Dr. Heaton because she’s apparently made no major mistakes (she may have cut one minor corner) yet faces horrendous consequences because a child is dead.   Dr. Heaton also begins to see that the friends and colleagues who’ve pledged to stand beside her begin to drop away.   At the end, she may have only her Texas-based family members to rely upon; and faint hopes of a miraculous exoneration.

I will not say any more about the plot except to note that it is set in Seattle, a place Cassella brings to life whether or not you’ve visited Pike Place Market.   Ironically, Dr. Horton and her fellow doctors have moved to Seattle for its scenery, which they rarely see due to 14-hour workdays.

For a first-time novelist, Cassella’s style is smooth and easy:  “The freeway dumps us into a nest of prewar bungalows huddling below the glass and metal giants of downtown (Houston).   The houses are painted in the vivid Easter egg yellows and blues and lavenders my mother always associated with the Mexican barrios that percolate up through the soul of all Texas cities like boiling springs, their mariachis…  and Spanish seared into our cultural palate.”

I have just two reservations about the telling of this story.   The first is that life becomes such a harsh struggle so quickly for the main character that some may find it too depressing to hold their interest.   Second, the Seattle hospital that Dr. Heaton works at never seemed real…   Those who know hospitals may find that something seems to be missing.

Despite these two points, I’m glad I read this one-of-a-kind novel.   I’m a fan of stories where the ending has not been revealed fifty, seventy-five or one hundred pages before it arrives…   This one also comes with a bit of an epilogue which is a pleasant surprise.

Recommended.

Joseph Arellanooxygen 3

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