Rating: 4.5
Genre:  Nonfiction, True Crime, US Legal System

My Mother raised me to love Perry Mason.  I recall watching old reruns in black and white in the afternoons after school, and occasionally on those sick days home from school.  As I grew, my indoctrination into the fairness and equity of the US justice system continued as I watched the varieties of Law and Order, CSI, The Closer, etc.  In these television shows, the guilty are usually caught, justice is served, and the viewers faith in the infallibility of the US legal system is reaffirmed all in the space of an episode spanning less than an hour.  In all of these shows, the police and prosecutors of the state are only concerned with true justice being served.  This pursuit of justice on the part of these characters often leads to what I will term as the "deathbed rescue," in which an innocent person is saved from execution on death row by mere minutes after the tireless investigator questions an incorrect assumption made years earlier and begs the attorney generals office to intervene with the governor.  This is of course great television, and like many viewers, I always assumed that things like this must routinely happen in real life.

Serial and Undisclosed changed everything.  Those podcasts, especially Undisclosed, ripped the veil from my eyes and put the truth of the US justice system on display.  As the inconsistencies in the case continued to mount I was horrified to realize how naive I had been.  For the first time, I began to fear that if I am ever accused of a crime I can't trust innocence to protect me.   I also learned that the wheels of justice do not turn swiftly.  I was shocked to find that it can take months and years for any developments to move through the courts.

This is an important book.  Rabia Chaudry, Adnan's most steadfast defender, and an amazing woman that has become a hero of mine tells the story behind the scenes.  I don't think it can replace listening to the podcasts, and I encourage everyone to give them a try, but it is still worth reading as it provides a perspective on just what a long shot it was that Adnan could find any sort of justice without the interest and involvement of the media and the public outcry which followed.

In the end, my heart remains broken for the family of Hae Min Lee.  I wonder if they will ever be able to receive justice for what happened to her after what those in charge of the investigation have done.  

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Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Genre: Adult Contemporary Fiction

I am a nervous flyer.  Each time I find myself vibrating in my seat as the plane charges down the runway before launching into the sky I grab the armrest in a white knuckle grip and give a reassuring smile to my kids.  So far, I think I've managed to trick my kids into thinking that Mommy enjoys the excitement of air travel.  However, while I don't enjoy it, flying is a somewhat routine part of my life, and I find myself on a plane at least once a year enduring my air anxiety with relative good cheer because it allows me to avoid a long and unpleasant road trip with impatient and loud children.  So, I could identify with the premise of this book, which is the story of a plane crash.  When I received this book via the Book of the Month club, (which is amazing and which you should go and join right now, here) there was warning tucked inside not to read this book on an airplane.  This is excellent advice for any nervous fliers out there as this book will definitely remind you that you are literally placing your lives in the hands of those who are responsible for both flying and maintaining the aircraft.

The book begins almost immediately with the plane crash, so no spoilers there.  However, this book is about so much more than a plane crash.  While I was intrigued and invested in the mystery of the how and why, and that aspect of the book was very satisfying, I was more interested in what this book had to say about the mantle of celebrity, rights of privacy, and the news media.  There are only two survivors to this plane crash.  One, a four year old, and the other a man named Scott, a recovering alcoholic and failed artist.  I don't want to spoil the survival aspect of this part of the novel, so suffice it to say I thought that the book did a great job of portraying the celebrity status and instant obsession that we thrust upon those in our society who we consider to have accomplished great or heroic deeds.  The book also shows the dark side of this fame as those who have been blessed or cursed with this sort of attention seem to lose any rights to privacy and become the object of an intense investigation regarding their character and perceived motives.

I found this book to be timely, and it gave me a lot to think about.  There were a few characters that I thought might have been inspired by certain real life media personalities.  I highly recommend this one.
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Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Reading Format: Audio Book Read by Emma Galvin

It seems unfair to me to judge a book in comparison with another, but in this case I just can't help myself. It would have been impossible for me to read this novel without comparing it with each turn of the page to the fabulous Hunger Games series written by Susan Collins. Certainly, the Hunger Games sets a high standard indeed, and Divergent didn't quite measure up to it in my opinion.

Divergent is the story of Beatrice Prior, a sixteen year old teenage girl living in a futuristic Chicago. Roth's dystopian vision features an even more polarized society than we are living in now (hard to imagine, I know), which has resulted in the creation of five factions, each centered around one particular virtue: Candor which focuses on strict honesty, Abnegation which is selfless at all costs, Dauntless the always brave, Amity the peaceful, and the Erudite who value education and intelligence above all else.

Annually, a ceremony is held in which all sixteen year olds must choose the faction to which they will dedicate their lives. After their choice, they are forced to undergo an initiation, which if they fail leaves them as cast offs of society. Beatrice, our plucky yet conflicted heroin, has been raised with the teachings of her abnegation family, but feels herself not truly selfless enough to remain in the faction of her birth for the rest of her life. I won't tell you what choice she makes, but honestly, I think you'll be able to guess within the first few pages. The remainder of the novel follows Beatrice, now known as Tris, as she struggles to survive initiation and become a member of her chosen faction.

Divergent is a fun and fast read. I did find the concept of the five factions a bit hard to swallow, which I think made it hard for me to get really invested in this read. However, if I am honest the most challenging aspect of this book for me was that it wasn't the Hunger Games, which is what I was really yearning for. Still, I am excited that Divergent is only the first on a planned trilogy, and I am planning on continuing on with Tris in the next installment. Is it wrong for me to hope that Veronica Roth spends some serious time with Susan Collins while writing the sequels?
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