Friday, October 30, 2015

WICKED CHARMS - Janet Evanovich with Phoef Sutton [Book recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library “new books” shelf

Description: The inside flap tells us that Lizzy and Diesel, the protagonists, are searching for the Stone of Avarice. They want to find it before others do, including Diesel's cousin Wulf. The search involves a treasure map, a ship, and an island.

Plot: The book is a light read and moves quickly. The storyline is somewhat over-complicated in that I got lost in a few places. The end includes a small twist which I didn't see coming but it didn't seem to affect the storyline much anyway. The very end was rather flat.

Characterization: The characters are not as well-developed as they could be, and if a reader hasn't read the previous two Lizzy & Diesel books [which I have], they will feel flat. All of the main characters have some type of special power, which made the story more interesting that it would be otherwise.

Setting: Massachusetts. The descriptions were good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: This story didn't have the “spark” that the previous Lizzy & Diesel stories had, possibly because it read more like a sequel and not a stand-alone story.

Overall: a fun book altho slightly disappointing. I would read more by this author [and in fact I've read most of her books], altho her newer books are not as good as her earlier books.

Grade: C+

Monday, October 26, 2015

Swamped at work? Don't try this.

A New York paralegal, swamped with work and tired of working long, under-appreciated hours at his firm, decided to “make his job a little easier” by forging the signatures of 76 judges on 117 personal injury settlement agreements over a two-year period.

To me, this is a perfect example of the phrase – It takes less time to do something right than to do it over.

In this case, however, doing it over doesn't appear to be an option. The paralegal has been arrested on 234 counts of forgery. Ouch.

Additionally, the Court has ordered higher payments for the personal-injury plaintiffs whose settlements were not officially authorized by the Court.

The insurance company paying the settlements has sued the law firm for failure to adequately supervise the paralegal.

Ya think?

Story on Above The Law 

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Chocolate Clown Corpse - JoAnna Carl [Book Recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library “new books” shelf, large print edition

Description: The back cover tells us that Lee Woodyard, the protagonist, owns a chocolate shop. The owner of the shop next door, a clown named Moe, ends up dead. When Moe's widow and children list the clown shop for sale, Lee tours it and finds Moe's widow unconscious inside. Lee attempts to learn who killed Moe and who is trying to kill his widow.

Plot: The book is a light, fun read and moves quickly. The storyline is sufficiently complicated to make for an interesting read, and has several scenes where Lee finds herself in sticky situations, including one scene where Lee extricates herself in hilarious fashion. The end includes a small twist which I saw coming about half-way through the book, well before it occurs. This did reduce the tension somewhat.

Characterization: The characters are reasonably well-developed, although not as much as they could have been. I wanted Lee to succeed, but I wasn't as invested in her success as I wanted to be, possibly because of the reduced tension level, see plot above. Lee's husband is a criminal defense attorney who is appointed to defend the man accused of killing Moe, which made for an interesting sideline.

Setting: Michigan in winter. The descriptions were very good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: Occasional chapters were followed by a page called “Chocolate Chat,” containing information, history, and trivia about chocolate.

Overall: a fun book. I would read more by this author.

Grade: B

Monday, October 19, 2015

Australians apparently take their social media seriously

Australia’s workplace tribunal recently ruled that a woman was bullied after she was unfriended on Facebook following a work dispute.

The inciting incident appears to have happened one day when the victim [real estate agent] complained to the agency principal that her properties were not being adequately displayed in the store window.The bully then accused the victim of being a "naughty little school girl running to the teacher." 

The victim left the office crying and then checked to see if the bully had commented on the incident on Facebook [which as we all know, especially after this ruling, is akin to firebombing the victim's house], only to discover that the bully had instead unfriended her. 

The horror!

Now to be fair, the bully was the wife of the boss, so the positions and work relationship of these two women couldn't be considered equal.  And apparently the bully had also engaged in other bullying-type behavior directed toward the victim, including, over a two-year period, failing to say hello in the morning and delivering photocopies and print-outs to all staff but the victim.

The commission has issued an order to stop the bullying. “This action by Mrs Bird [bully] evinces a lack of emotional maturity and is indicative of unreasonable behaviour,” the tribunal ruled. 

Moral of this story:  never friend anyone you work with.

Article in The Telegraph

Friday, October 16, 2015

Bye, Bye Love - K.J. Larsen [Book recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library “new books” shelf

Description: The front flap tells us that private investigator Cat DeLuca, of the Pants on Fire Detective Agency, it out running with her beagle when she literally stumbles over a dead body. As she pulls out her phone to report it, she is stun-gunned by the apparent murderer. When the police arrive, the body is gone. Cat “helps” the police find the killer.

Plot: The book is a light, fun read and moves quickly. I read this book at the beach, and it is definitely a beach book. The storyline is sufficiently complicated to make for an interesting read. It was a who-done-it and a why-done-it. I had a vague inkling of the “who” and the “why”, but the ending did surprise me. The end included a high-tension, scary predicament and a satisfying twist.

Characterization: The characters are well-developed. I wanted Cat to succeed, at the expense of her police relatives. I did find the book had a few too many characters that I had trouble differentiating, and at one point I decided not to try to figure out who everyone was. It didn't feel like that detracted from my enjoyment of the story, but of course I don't know if I would have enjoyed it more if I could have kept the characters straight.

Setting: Chicago. The descriptions were very good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: The book is advertised as similar to Stephanie Plum, and I found that accurate, altho the Plum books do contain more humor.

Overall: a fun book. I would read more by this author.

Grade: B+

Monday, October 12, 2015

Your online negative review could cost you money

In New York, a judge has ruled that if you post a negative review on Yelp that includes certain words, your review is no longer your opinion [protected by the First Amendment] but is libelous.

As of now, in New York, don't use the following words [or, presumably, words like them] in your online reviews:


The customer hired a floor-refinishing company to refinish her floors, for $700. The completed project wasn't to her expectations, so she blasted the company on Yelp, using the three words above. A New York judge decided those words implied more than just the fact this lady wasn't satisfied with the service. They implied criminal behavior. As I read the ruling, the judge ordered as follows:

1. The dissatisfied customer must pay the refinishing company $1000 for the “libelous review” [which apparently he decided was not protected by the First Amendment, which means it qualified as legally more than just this lady's opinion].

2. The refinishing company owed this lady $400 because it was not properly licensed.

3. The refinishing company is not required to reimburse this customer the cost she had to pay to have the job re-done by a different [presumably licensed] company.

Now I don't understand why, if the company wasn't licensed, the judge didn't require a refund of the entire $700 the customer paid.

A Yelp representative, who appears to have a firm grasp on reality, stated that most businesses prefer to address negative reviews informally on the review site, not by taking legal action which can result in even more harm to the business reputation.

The customer plans to appeal this decision.

Hopefully the judge who hears the appeal is someone who was actually paying attention when he took Constitutional Law in law school.

Friday, October 9, 2015

SHARK SKIN SUITE - Tim Dorsey [Book recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library “new books” shelf

Description: The front flap tells us that Serge Storm, the protagonist, is a “fixer”, a sort-of paralegal and wannabe lawyer who travels around Florida as a kind of vigilante. Brook Campanella is a new lawyer who is good at representing homeowners against big banks engaging in shady foreclosure practices.

Plot: The book has 2-3 interwoven plot lines, and it did get confusing at times. Certain chapters read like they belonged in a different story entirely. Serge could be really funny, somewhat slapstick at times. The mystery aspect was more of a how-done-it. I did NOT guess the “how”. The trial was more on legal technique rather than questioning the witness, but it was well-done without being too technical for a non-legal reader. The end included a reasonably high-tension predicament and a satisfying twist.

Characterization: The characters are reasonably well-developed, although not as much as I've read in other books. I wanted them to succeed, although except for the trial, I was somewhat confused on the ultimate goal.

Setting: South Florida and several of the Keys. The descriptions were very detailed, in some places somewhat overboard in my opinion. I was able to picture every scene, although sometimes I skimmed over the descriptions.

Other: This book had several interesting minor characters.

Overall: The confusing aspects of this book made it difficult to finish. I'm glad I finished it, because the trial and the end were fun to read. I'm not sure I would read more by this author.

Grade: B-

Monday, October 5, 2015

The mother of all continuance requests

In mid-August, a Pennsylvania defense counsel requested a continuance of his client's preliminary hearing, so counsel's wife wouldn't kill him for not being with her for the birth of their baby.

His reason was entirely too believable, even tho not technically a valid legal reason for a continuance.  Fortunately, his request was granted and he remains alive today.

The most common reasons for continuances in my area of practice [eviction law] is that a party or counsel is too sick to appear in court.  Evictions have priority over all other civil cases, because by definition the Plaintiff is alleging the Defendant remains in the property without permission [non-payment of rent being the most common, followed by prior owners losing the home to foreclosure].  Every day the Defendant remains in the property equals lost money for the Plaintiff, so every day the Plaintiff's money damages increase.  Therefore, Defense requests for continuance are generally denied unless there is a really good reason.  Here are some of the reasons I've heard, given by Defendants, most of which haven't worked:

1.  I'm too sick to be here [this works only if accompanied by Defendant passing out while making the request, which did actually happen once]

2.  Defendant passed away [request obviously made by a third party, usually attorney or family member.  Sometimes, trial proceeds anyway, depending on the nature of the case.]

3.  I want time to find an attorney [most of the time, Defendants have had at least a month to find an attorney]

4.  I want more time to gather documents [see above]

5.  Plaintiff's lawyer isn't being nice to me [this accusation usually results from the lawyer telling the Defendant s/he can't live there for free]

6.  I'm having an anxiety attack [not too long ago, a Defendant had a major attack and was removed to a hospital by paramedics who had to strap her to a stretcher so she wouldn't hurt herself on the way out of court.  That Defendant DID obtain a continuance.]

7.  I broke my shoe [yes, this really was requested once.  And denied.]

8.  I have to pick up my kids from school [you didn't arrange for that in advance?]

9.  I didn't know I couldn't wear shorts [bailiff didn't allow Defendant in the courtroom.  Defendant traded pants with a family member, who waited in the hallway wearing the shorts until the case was concluded.]

When I was in law school, I always thought of court as an intimidating place where everyone wore suits and shiny shoes, and was on their formal behavior.  In eviction court, we're lucky when the parties show up in unripped jeans and shirts which cover their mid-sections, and keep the curse words to a minimum.

Friday, October 2, 2015

PAW AND ORDER - Spencer Quinn [Book Recommendation]

Book obtained from: Library “new books” shelf, audio book

Description: The back cover tells us the book is narrated by Chet, the canine partner of Bernie, an Arizona private detective. The team travels to Washington DC to visit Bernie's girlfriend, a reporter working on a big story she won't divulge. A source gets himself killed, and Bernie is arrested. After he's released, he and Chet work to solve the mystery.

Plot: The book is a bit more gritty than my usual “light, fun read,” altho Chet is a really funny narrator. The storyline is sufficiently complicated to make for an interesting read. It wasn't really a who-done-it, because Chet gives the “who” away with something he sees and reports but doesn't know why it's important at the time. The process of Bernie figuring out the “who” as well as the “why” was interesting. The end included a somewhat-high-tension [altho not as scary as many books I read] experience and a satisfying twist. The main problem I had with the plot is that the triggering incident [where the story question began], didn't happen until the end of chapter 4. If Chet wasn't such a funny narrator, I may not have been sufficiently interested to read through the end of chapter 4.

Characterization: The characters are well-developed. Chet is really funny in what he reports as important. He notices all the smells and sounds he encounters, and gives the reader hints of things that Bernie doesn't know about because he doesn't have a dog's keen sense of smell or hearing. I wanted Bernie and Chet to succeed, altho the tension and danger level wasn't as high as I expected from this grittier story.

Setting: Washington DC. The descriptions were very good, I was able to picture every scene without it being over-described.

Other: The narrator, Jim Frangione, took a while to get used to. I heard sharp intakes of breath frequently. In the beginning few chapters, his style kind of grated on me, but as I got used to it, it did get better.

Overall: started too slowly, but the humor carried it to where it really started. I would read more by this author.

Grade: B+