December’s Comfort

December started with an overnight to New York City. This is going to sound strange coming from a girl from a small town in Maine, but I love, love, love the Big Apple. I love the grit and congestion. I love all the food choices (pizza!). Of course I also love the fact I can leave it!
We were there to see Natalie Merchant receive the John Lennon Real Love Award at Symphony Space. A fantastic night! Since we rattled down to the city via rails I was able to get a lot of reading done. Here is the proposed plan for the rest of the month:


  • The Aguero Sisters by Cristina Garcia (EB) – in honor of December being the best month to visit the Caribbean. I thought I had gotten rid of all the “best month to travel to. [location” books but I guess not.
  • A Long Way From Home by Connie Briscoe (EB) – in honor of Briscoe’s birth month being in December.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss – for Christmas.
  • Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne – in honor of the month Eeyore was born.


  • A People’s History of the Supreme Court by Peter Irons (P) – in honor of the history of the Constitution. Yes, I know I read this some years ago, but I can’t find the review anywhere, so I am reading it again.
  • The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton (EB) – in honor of de Botton’s birth month being in December.
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (EB) – in honor of Bryson’s borth month being in December.
  • Before the Deluge by Otto Friedrich (EB)- in honor of Berlin’s Tattoo Festival which takes place in December every year.
  • Saddest Pleasure by Moritz Thomsen – in honor of Brazil’s first emperor.

Series Continuations:

  • Without Fail by Lee Child (EB) – started in July.
  • The Master of Hestviken: In the Wilderness by Sigrid Undset (EB) – started in October.

Keeping It Civil

Klaw, Margaret. Keeping It Civil: the Case of the Pre-Nup and the Porche & Other True Accounts From the Files of a Family Lawyer. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2013.

Keeping It Civil is extremely entertaining. It’s the kind of book you can read on a one-way train ride from New Haven, Connecticut to midtown Manhattan. I should know because I just did it. It’s a peepshow into the world of relationships which are on the brink of complication. Divorce is the obvious scenario for which a family lawyer is needed but consider these cases: same-sex marriage and artificial insemination rights, to name a two. Nothing about humans or their relationships is cut and dried anymore. For example, I was surprised to learned that as a same-sex couple, you can get visit the state of Vermont and get married while you are there, but to get divorced you have to have lived in the state for a minimum of six months.

Reason read: Early review book for September.

Author fact: Margaret Klaw has been dubbed a Pennsylvania “Super Lawyer.” I have no idea what that means, but it sounds cool.

Book trivia: There is a twinge of humor to Klaw’s stories. It’s unexpected and fun.

December Was…

img_0030December started off being my fresh start. New houses, new atttitude. It would have been a return to charity walks (or runs?) had a little thing called house hunting not gotten in the way! December ended up being a really, really difficult month. Lost another house, craziness at work, mental health taking a trip south, a passing of a friend and coworker… Here are the books I read escaped with. It may seem like a lot but, keep in mind, I cheated. I was able to read the first two in November.

  • The Quiet American by Graham Green ~ I read this in three days time…in November. Was really that good!
  • A Dangerous Friend by Ward Just ~ Another book I read in just a few days time, again…in November.
  • Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver ~ probably one of the best court-room dramas I have ever read.
  • I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years Away by Bill Bryson ~ funny, but repetitive!
  • A Family Affair by Rex Stout ~ very strange yet entertaining.
  • Lincoln’s Dreams by Connie Willis ~again, strange but entertaining!
  • Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella ~ okay. I’ll admit it. This one made me cry.
  • ‘Sippi by John Oliver Killens ~ powerful – really, really powerful. That’s all I can really say.
  • Snobs by Julian Fellowes ~ silly story about what happens with you combine boredom with good old fashioned English snobbery.
  • Choice Cuts by Mark Kurlansky ~ really interesting, but a bit dry at times (no pun intended).

For LibraryThing it was the fascinating Honeymoon in Tehran by Azadeh Moaveni (really, really good).

Confession: I started Le Mort d’Arthur and couldn’t deal with neither volume one or two. Just not in the mood for the King, no matter how authoritative the version.

So. 11 books. Two being in the month of November and nine as the cure for what ailed me.

Edited to add: someone asked me to post “the count” at the end of each “— Was” blog. What a great idea. I will be starting that next month – something new to start 2009 with. Thanks, A!

Anatomy of a Murder

img_43561Traver, Robert. Anatomy of a Murder. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1958.

If you want to get technical about it this was my first book of December – considering the first two were read while it was still November. A technicality, I guess.

Anatomy of a Murder was written in the 1950s by Robert Traver. From the moment I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. 439 pages went by in a blur. I read before bed, when I first woke, on the drive into work, on my lunch break, waiting in line at the grocery store…It had me hooked from the very first sentence. It’s no wonder this novel became a movie. For starters, take the author – Robert Traver was the pen name for John D. Voelker who happened to be a lawyer and a judge in addition to being a fantastic writer. Secondly, Voelker used a real life murder than took place in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. True stories are always fascinating.

So, here’s the story (now that I’ve set the stage, so to speak): Paul (Polly to his friends) Biegler is an ex-D.A. turned public defender set out to prove his client, Frederic Manion, murdered a bartender in a moment of insanity. Proving the insanity isn’t the only challenge of the case. Biegler must also prove Manion’s wife was raped by the bartender (and thus creating the moment of insanity) when all evidence surrounding Mrs. Manion’s attack is not admissible in her husband’s trial. The entire story is so well written you never want it to end.

Some of the many, many lines and phrases I found great:
“gently drunk” (p 13).
“Juries, in common with women drivers, are apt to do the damndest things” (p 39).
“I consider jealousy the most corrosive and destructive of all emotions and I long time ago made up my mind that I refused to be jealous of anyone or anything. Life is simply too goddam short” (p 73).

One last comment. I always thought that lawyers (of any kind) needed to show judges the utmost respect both in the courtroom and in chambers. Right? Well, someone needs to explain the scene on page 244 where Polly is in Judge Weaver’s chambers. Picture this, the Judge has just lit a pipe and Polly sits, “one leg over the arm of [his] chair.” I don’t even sit that way in my mother-in-law’s house!

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter, “What a Trial That Was!” (p 243).