Waiting to Be Heard

Author – Amanda Knox
Publication Date – April 30, 2013
Number of Pages – 480
Genre – Memoir
Geographical Setting – Perugia, Italy

This is a true story which made headlines first in 2007 when Amada Knox and her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were accused of the murder of Amanda’s room-mate Meredith Kercher a twenty-one year old foreign exchange student from outside London. Amanda and Raffaele were both found guilty and spent four years in an Italian prison after which the conviction was overturned by the supreme court acquitting them of the murder. I saw snippets of the interview Amanda Knox gave on CNN recently which got me really curious about this story, so I quickly headed out to my local library where I found a copy of this book. As soon as I started reading it, I was enthralled. I’m mostly impressed by her detailed writing, and chronological organization of events. This gut wrenching account is bound to keep the reader enthralled until the end. I was so engrossed that I read this book in one day under covers.

In this memoir, Amanda talks openly, while giving a comprehensive account of her experiences in Italy starting from her arrival in Perugia, as a free minded American girl looking to study Creative Writing at the University of Foreigners, through – when her life takes a sudden turn the day the body of her room-mate was discovered in the apartment they shared. The reader eagerly follows the story of Amanda’s court trials, conviction and eventual acquittal. Amanda bares her mind in this compelling argument making a case for her innocence using notes from her diary, news articles, court papers and documentation. She talks about questionable police conduct, the use of false and unreliable witnesses, and then launches into her four years ordeal in an Italian prison.

This book tries to answer a lot of the questions about what really happened the night of the murder and the reasons for Amanda’s “bizarre” behavior after the body was found. You will also find blow-by-blow explanations of all the accusations labeled against her as she tries to clear up any ambiguities that has clouded the case. Her argument is geared towards poking holes in the prosecutor’s hypotheses while maintaining the lack of physical evidence placing her at the murder scene. She points out how evidence were thwarted and manipulated to fit the prosecutor’s theory of what may have happened that night.

Irrespective of your position on whether Amanda and Raffaele are guilty or innocent, this book tries to get the readers understand exactly Amada’s emotional state at the time and why she may have reacted the way she did. It also uncovers the many details the media may have missed or exaggerated upon. In the final analysis, some readers may still not find her argument logical enough, however, this is an interesting and riveting account of an unfortunate period in a twenty year old girl’s life – in a foreign land with limited language skills.

I recommend this as a great read for those highly interested in the Amanda Knox’s case or those who love murder cases in general. I plan on reading Raffaele’s book also to get his point of view.

If you have to time, please check out these links…

ABC: Amanda on Meredith and the British girls ABC: Amanda on Meredith and the British girls

CNN: Amanda on her interrogation CNN: Amanda on her interrogation

Are you familiar with this case? – please feel free to share your thoughts…

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The Boy Next Door

Author – Meg Cabot
Publication Date – 2002
Number of Pages – 384 pages
Genre – Romance
Geographical Setting – New York City

Book Summary

Have you had a very good laugh lately? Well, you’ve got to pick up this book!

The main character in this novel is Melissa Fuller, but “You can call me Mel”, as she says. Mel is a gossip columnist for the New York Journal and has just broken up with her longtime boyfriend, Aaron Spender. Her best friend, Nadine Wilcock, a food critic, is getting married to her boyfriend, Tony Salerno, who is a chef at the popular restaurant Fresche. Melissa also has many coworkers, including Dolly Vargas, an outlandish Style Editor who has her eyes on quite a few men.

The book starts with Melissa being late to work after finding her neighbour, Mrs. Helen Friedlander, facedown on the carpet of her apartment after a brutal attack. Mel gets her to the hospital but has yet to solve the problem of walking Paco, Mrs. Friedlander’s Great Dane. She calls upon Mrs. Friedlander’s nephew, Max Friedlander, to come and take care of Paco and the two cats Tweedledum and Mr. Peepers. Max, who is on vacation with the supermodel Vivica, calls upon his millionaire friend John Trent, who is a crime reporter for the New York Chronicle, the Journal’s top competitor. John impersonates Max and moves into Max’s Aunt Helen’s apartment. Blurb ~ Wikipedia

My Take
The author, Meg Cabot is popularly known for her young adult novels, but The Boy Next Door was her first adult novel which has been very successful. I enjoyed Cabot’s other book – Boy Meets Girl which I had previously reviewed on my blog. They both share a lot of similar elements, so if you liked Boy Meets Girl, you’d love The Boy Next Door. I just finished reading this book a couple of days ago and I tell you – it’s really charming! It has such a fascinating plot which features an office setting while incorporating the characters’ after-office hours activities.

This book is funny, witty and there are a lot of laughs in there for everyone – even for guys! The story is engaging and immediately hooks you from start. The author uses everyday conversational tone to tell this story – in email exchanges between the characters. I give Mel Cabot a lot credit for the writing style she used. Even though the entire book is written in email format without a lot of descriptions and narratives, I was still able to bond with the characters and watch them evolve.

I admired Mel’s naiveté and innocence but on certain occasions, I wanted her to be objective and not over analyze things seeing that she might still be emotionally fragile having been recently dumped by her boyfriend. Her situation is quite interesting – where most of her classmates are beginning to get married off, she’s getting persistent pressure from her mom to find a husband, together with mounting pressure from her boss over deadlines. On top of all these, she has to worry about her relationship with “Max” which generates a lot of topic for gossip at work with everyone questioning – is this guy indeed for real?

While everything is going on, her best friend Nad remains supportive. This friendship is admirable – Though Nad is engaged and in the process of planning her wedding, and has quite her own issues to deal with, but as best friends, you really can appreciate how she is so helpful and makes herself available to Mel, constantly cheering her on. However, this does not stop Nad from showing her disapproval towards Mel’s action/ inaction as the story develops – (not to give a lot away).

Creating that “Max”‘s mysterious identity was a very clever arc thrown in by the author which helps keep the reader engaged until the final resolution. The characters develop well throughout the book with their natural voice – thus show casing each person’s individual personality. This adds to a relaxing and effortless reading. Her entire cast of characters are realistic and relatable just like in real life, where people have their various personal preferences and idiosyncrasies – these are well portrayed in the story.

While the email exchanges moves the story along pretty well, I love how the author uses delayed email responses to add suspense to the story and at the same time incorporating amusing twists here and there – which in the end wraps up nicely – of course …

The entire book is well written, the tone is upbeat, fun and cheery. I found this book very entertaining with laugh out loud humor. I recommend it to readers of Chick Lit or anyone wanting to explore Chick Lit and stories about women’s lives.

You may also love –

Something borrowed by Giffin, Emily

About The Author

Meg Cabot is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of books for both adults and tweens/teens. Born and raised in Bloomington, Indiana, Meg also lived in Grenoble, France and Carmel, California (the setting for her bestselling Mediator series) before moving to New York City after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Indiana University. ~ Author’s website

Death of a Nightingale

Author – Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis
Publication Date – November 5, 2013
Number of Pages – 368 pages
Genre – Mystery
Geographical Setting – Europe

Death of a Nightingale was one of many free pre publication books I received during the recent ALA conference here in Chicago.  It is a Nordic crime fiction from best-selling authors of The Boy in the Suitcase.  I had never heard about the authors so I was not sure what to expect but I went ahead and read it. I have to say, I loved it! If you are familiar with Scandinavian crime fiction novels, then you have a pretty good idea of the background of this novel.

This is another novel I’ve read recently that takes you back and forth in time. The plot runs across cities in Europe stretching from – 1934 Ukraine through present day Denmark. Death of a Nightingale features the Nina Borg series – a red cross nurse dedicated to the cause of immigrants and the poor who cannot afford official legal representations. Nina is at this time frantically protecting an immigrant single mother Natasha and her daughter Katerina even though the police is after Natasha who they suspect to have murdered her husband in the past and recently her Danish fiancé. At the same time, the reader also follows Natasha’s story as she desperately searches for her daughter who Natasha fears might be in enormous danger regardless that her daughter has been placed under police protective custody. It does not help that while Natasha is secretly and desperately looking to find and rescue her daughter, the police is chasing after her as a suspect in the murders. The authors – Kaaberbol and Frills masterfully constructed a heart pounding complex plot that leads the reader to anxiously flip the pages as they try to uncover the shocking mystery.

My Take –

Although this story starts out with a measured pace – which almost caused me to put it down, it picks up intensity as the reader gets to the middle and continues on a break neck speed with ending twists. Death of a Nightingale is a complicated story line where the discovery of two separate bodies has police detectives piecing pieces together and racing against time in other to find the killer. I find this an emotionally charged story which draws the reader in as they watch Natasha missing her daughter terribly is over come by this fear of some evil thing be falling her baby.

The authors did a great job of creating some confusion in the minds of the readers by weaving in the aspect of a rogue detective which plants doubts about who the real killer is. Thus, the reader grapples with some questions as they read along – Why is Natasha afraid to talk about her past life in Ukraine, could that have anything to do with the murders? Natasha might be psychologically unstable, but is she capable of inflicting such substantial wounds and killing both men? And why would she also want to harm her own daughter?

This book is loaded with revelations of heart breaking secrets and deceits as a roller coaster of sad and unfortunate events from the past are brought to light.

I classify Death of a Nightingale as a great book, not only because of the detailed writing, passionate and persuasive voice, but the background elements exhibiting such a strong sense of place. I was particularly fascinated by the insights of eastern European countries as they are vividly portrayed in the novel. The reader gets some perception of the history of these cities as well as some political and cultural differences that exist among them –  which I truly appreciate as one who has never traveled that far.  This novel fed my curiosity about other cultures, that while reading the book I engaged my map app on my iPad which allowed me to follow the story and maintain a real connection with the places and times.

I would recommend this for all crime fiction readers, however readers of Scandinavian crime fiction would especially be excited for this new addition. And – Watch out as this book gets published November 2013!!
(Now I want to read their first novel – The Boy in a Suitcase which has garnered a lot of buzz …)

About the authors –

Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis are the Danish duo behind the Nina Borg series. Friis is a journalist by training, while Kaaberbøl has been a professional writer since the age of 15, with more than 2 million books sold worldwide. Their first collaboration, The Boy in the Suitcase, was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, and has been translated into 27 languages ~ Authors’ info from Amazon.com

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Tell No One

Author: Coben, Harlan
Pages: 384
Genre: Mystery
Published: 2009
Setting: New York City

This is my first introduction to Harlan Coben
books and certainly not going to be the last.
He is best known for his award-winning Myron Bolitar series.
So Tell No One is one of his stand alone novels.

David Beck and his wife are on their yearly vacation for their wedding anniversary at the Beck family beach house. While out swimming under the moonlight, suddenly Beck feels someone hit him on the back of the head with a baseball bat. He is collapsing as he hears his wife screaming for him. When he comes to, he learns of his wife’s kidnap and tragic death.

Eight years later, Beck has become a respectable Physician in New York City where he works with under privileged children. Beck never got over the death of his wife. Closer to his next anniversary, he receives an intriguing email message with a coded phrase known only to him and his wife. His head is spinning – Is someone playing games with him? Could his wife still be alive? Suspense begins to mount…

Determined to find out the truth about what happened eight years ago, Beck starts his own investigations not knowing whom to trust anymore because the message said “Tell No One” and “They Are Watching”. Beck discovers he is up against a powerful and dangerous billionaire, and it doesn’t help him either to learn he’s being investigated by the CIA as the number one suspect in the death of his wife. But David Beck is not holding back. He is determined to unravel this mystery and he will go to any length to uncover the truth about what happened to his wife.

In Tell No One, Coben has masterfully spun a believable layered story with a lot of twists and turns. Towards the end, as the reader is still getting over some unexpected developments, the author throws in an exciting surprise. This mystery story is very suspenseful and thrilling. It will appeal to anyone who loves fast paced, edge on your seat novels.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, now I’m starting a list of similar books I’d like to read. Do you have any suggestions?

Vanished by Robards, Karen
A Prisoner of Birth
by Archer, Jeffery
The Affair by Child, Lee
Smash Cut by Brown, Sandra
Backfire-FBI Thriller by Coulter, Catherine
I’ll Walk Alone by Clark, Mary Higgins
I’ll Look Again by Scottoline, Lisa
Quinn by Johansen, Iris