Book review: Defending Jacob by William Landay

Defending Jacob
William Landay

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

First Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber is the first in his office to hear about a murder in the woods outside their suburban Massachusetts town’s middle school. When he arrives at the scene, he learns that eighth grader Ben Rifkin has been stabbed to death. Andy leads the preliminary investigation, even though there is a potential conflict of interest: Ben was a classmate of his son, Jacob. Police interviews with classmates and Facebook comments on a memorial page suggest that Ben had been bullying Jacob and that Jacob was preparing to defend himself. Damning evidence quickly puts Jacob at the scene, police charge him with murder and Andy steps down from the case.

Jacob swears he’s innocent and Andy believes him. Readers, however, must form their own opinions about Jacob. The author makes it tough to decide because Jacob is hard to know. He’s a typical teenager, closed and sarcastic. And he has only a few friends in his circle, friends who now keep their distance.

As Jacob’s lawyer prepares for trial, Andy and his wife, Laurie face the impossible problem of seeing the evidence yet wanting to believe their son. During this time, Andy reveals shocking information about his own past that may point to a pattern of crimes. Their lawyer suggests genetic and psychological testing and he and Laurie worry that Jacob has received the “murder gene.” The disturbing results call their parenting skills and decisions into question: are they bad parents because they put Jacob in daycare as a baby? Were they wrong to think he had outgrown his toddler aggression? Hadn’t he?

On the last day of the trial, readers may think it will all be over when the jury returns with its verdict, but twists and turns lead to a surprising finish. In the end, Andy may never be sure of Jacob’s guilt or innocence. Readers may feel the same way.

Published in 2012, Defending Jacob explores themes of marriage, parenting, bullying and nature vs nurture. Lesser themes include politics in the district attorney’s office and the false feeling of security in an affluent suburban town. I enjoyed this story, despite it being a little dated. This is my second time reading it and my only negative comment would be that Jacob seemed older, not like a fourteen-year-old boy. The story has been modernized and is now a TV miniseries starring Chris Evans, Michelle Dockery and Jaeden Martell.

Defending Jacob is a good choice for a book club. I recommend it to readers who like mysteries and character studies.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Please pardon my absence…be back soon!

Hi Everyone,

Please pardon my absence from the blog. Between NaNoWriMo, reading, working and getting ready for Thanksgiving, I’ve been short on time. I will be back on the blog soon, to visit you and with new posts.

Thanks for your patience!

National Novel Writing Month Author Interview – Geoff Le Pard

Hi Everyone, I’m sharing our library’s NaNoWriMo interview with indie author Geoff Le Pard. Read about his projects and what inspires him!

Stay Connected with Chescolibraries

During the month of November, aspiring and published authors from around the world have committed to writing 50,000 words in thirty days.

Geoff Le Pard

Today we welcome NaNoWriMo published author Geoff Le Pard, a published indie author whose multiple projects began with NaNoWriMo challenges.

Thank you for joining us, Geoff!

How many years have you participated in NaNoWriMo? I’ve done three and a half years!

How did you first hear about or get started with NaNoWriMo? When I started blogging, I read about it and heard people praise it so decided to give it a go.

Three of your books began as NaNoWriMo projects. Can you tell us more about how you got started? The first book was the second book in a series. It followed my hero on his hapless journey and was set in 1981. Having finished the first book (set in 1976), I knew I wanted…

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What’s That Book? The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

TitleThe Brothers Karamazov

Author:  Fyodor Dostoevsky

Genre: Classic/Literature

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What’s it about? I have wanted to read this novel for years but found it intimidating. I recently joined a read-along where we read one chapter a day of this amazing book. That was one chapter a day for 96 days! I am so glad I did as it was the best way to savour this incredible story. It is essentially a story of three, possibly four, very different brothers from a dysfunctional family, and how their actions affect each other and the people around them. One brother is a ladies’ man and a spendthrift, another an intellectual and the youngest, kind and religious.

The story covers everything, love, hate, family, religion, history, philosophy, mystery and much more. Every chapter makes you think, some make you laugh and others make you sad. The themes are timeless and as relevant today as they were in 19th century Russia.

As in many Russian stories, there are numerous characters with more than one name. But it doesn’t take long to sort them out and they all play an important part. There are many stories within the story, told by an unnamed narrator who lives in the village the Karamazov family live in and where most of the action takes place. The characters are well developed and the stories cleverly knit together. I was surprised at the humour scattered throughout the book.

At the end, the youngest brother tells a group of school boys, “You must know that there is nothing higher and stronger and more wholesome and good for life in the future than some good memory, especially a memory of childhood, of home.” This is a book worth reading more than once. 

How did you hear about it? I heard about the Karamazov read-along through Rebecca Budd of Tea, Toast and Trivia. I realized that this was probably the only way I would ever read this book.

Closing comments: It is good for your soul to read a classic from time to time.  A great idea is to read a classic along with one or more readers for encouragement and discussion. Everyone should read The Brothers Karamazov at least once.

Contributor: Darlene Foster, a long time dreamer of dreams and teller of tales, is the author of the exciting Amanda Travels series featuring spunky Amanda Ross, a Canadian girl who loves to travel. All ages enjoy following Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another in unique destinations. Darlene, an avid traveler herself, divides her time between Canada’s west coast and the Spanish Costa Blanca with her husband and entertaining rescue dogs, Dot and Lia.

Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it? Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at for information.

National Novel Writing Month Author Interview – J.D. Estrada

Hi Everyone, I’m sharing this NaNoWriMo author interview from our library blog. Say hello to J.D. Estrada!

Stay Connected with Chescolibraries

During the month of November, aspiring and published authors from around the world have committed to writing 50,000 words in thirty days.

J.D. Estrada

Today we welcome NaNoWriMo published author J.D. Estrada, a published indie author whose multiple projects began with NaNoWriMo challenges.

Thank you for joining us, J.D.!

How many years have you participated in NaNoWriMo? Along with Camp NaNoWriMo I’ve participated 4 different years though not back-to-back. November is often a very tricky month to navigate because of work and hey, we’re only human 🙂 Still, when the opportunity is there, I dive right in.

How did you first hear about or get started with NaNoWriMo? I first heard about NaNo when a fellow indie author was hosting some live panels, YouTube videos, and write-ins 5 years ago and the year after. I found it interesting and took a stab at Camp NaNo first to get my feet…

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On YouTube: Big surprise in the mail!

Hi Everyone!

I’m so excited and want to share the big surprise I got in the mail! Watch my new video here:

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Short story reviews

Hi Everyone,

I spent some time organizing my short story reviews and converting the old ones to the new block format (whew!). From now on, I’ll add them to the page that I also created, which you can find at the top of my site. I have read some excellent short stories and recommend all them all. I found them in these collections and anthologies. I’ve been carrying around a couple of these books since college!

These short story collections are also excellent:

Do you like reading short stories? What do you recommend?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Would you like to review a book on What’s That Book?

Hi Everyone,

Would you like to talk about a book you’ve read? Consider being a guest on What’s That Book, a great way to share your bookish opinions and connect with readers from around the world.

Maybe it’s a favorite book. Maybe it’s a book you just finished. Or maybe you have a different opinion about a book I’ve reviewed and want to talk about it!

Want to know more about it? Check out this recent post of What’s That Book? Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain here.

If you are interested, email me at and I’ll send you a template.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

On YouTube: a hair emergency and random chit chat

Hi Everyone,

I’m over on YouTube today talking about a bit of a hair emergency I had at work and other random things. Hope you’ll stop by!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

National Novel Writing Month Author Interview – Jennifer Kelland Perry

Hi Everyone, Take a look at this NaNoWriMo interview with Jennifer Kelland Perry. Jennifer graciously agreed to be interviewed for our library’s blog. Like many other authors, Jennifer is preparing to write a new book as part of next month’s NaNoWriMo challenge. Best wishes to Jennifer!

Stay Connected with Chescolibraries

Dreaming about writing a novel? NaNoWriMo is a great chance to get your book idea going. During the month of November, aspiring and published authors from around the world have committed to writing 50,000 words in thirty days.

Jennifer Kelland Perry

Today we welcome NaNoWriMo published author Jennifer Kelland Perry, whose book Calmer Girls was part of a NaNoWriMo challenge.

Thank you for joining us, Jennifer!

How many years have you participated in NaNoWriMo? First of all, thank you for inviting me for this interview. I’m truly honored to be here. I have taken part in NaNoWriMo three times since 2013. The first two times, I worked on the Calmer Girls series, a duology. I successfully reached the word count of 50,000 words with both. The third and most recent time I participated was in 2016, where I didn’t reach the goal – life and a bad flu bug got…

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