Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Salon: A Reading Retrospective, March 2004

I wish I had kept a blog in March of 2004. Some of you might have enjoyed reading about my jury experience. I could not talk about the case at the time, but I kept a detailed journal of the entire process as it unfolded. There was the juror who showed up hungover almost every day and was actually under the influence one day. That was the day he fell asleep right in the middle of the autopsy photo presentation. I met a couple of nice women and we spent our lunch breaks together for the duration of the trial, although sometimes I would slip away to fit in a little reading.

It was a murder trial. A man had killed his live-in girlfriend by beating her to death. They were both heavily under the influence of alcohol at the time. It was my first experience on a jury. I was fascinated by the entire criminal court process. Up to that point in time, my job had taken me into other coutrooms, but nothing like this. Looking back, maybe reading a legal thriller would have been fitting considering the circumstances.

Then again, spending time in the Dark Realm was probably the wiser choice--something completely different from what was going on in the real world. The horrors of real life could be kept separate from the world I was escaping to in the pages of my books.

Daughter of the Blood was my first introduction to Anne Bishop's Black Jewels trilogy. I actually had my doubts about the book at first. I had a hard time getting a firm hold on the sense of place and time. But that soon changed as I grew closer to the characters. and became more involved with the story. Anne Bishop has a way of drawing out her characters, bringing out their emotions and making them seem like flesh and blood. It was hard not to feel a part of the story and the events as they unfolded.

I still remember the moment I finished Daughter of Blood. I was addicted and I needed my next fix. I couldn't wait for the next book in the series and dragged my husband to the bookstore to pick up a copy of the next book in the trilogy. I flew through both Heir to the Shadows and Queen of the Darkness. I was completely mesmerized.

The Black Jewel books are dark and fantastical. They are filled with magic and struggles for power. They are sensual at times and cruel at others. There are other books set in the Dark Realm as well. I have read all but the two most recent ones.

I was disappointed when I went back to read my reviews of the trilogy books just now. They do not fully convey the appreciation I felt for the books then and now. I at least rated them well.

The murder trial came to a close for me when the verdict was read. It had been an eye opening experience. I got to see what the jury process was like first hand. While it was an exciting process to be a part of, it was also a very sad one. A crime had been committed and a family was irrevocably broken. Those are wounds that no one will ever completely heal from. Not the dead woman's children nor her parents. Not even the defendant who is serving a good part of his life behind bars.

I chose to read something on the lighter side at that point in time. I needed something that would make me laugh. I ended up reading an early release copy of Steve Kluger's Almost Like Being in Love, which I had gotten through the Harper Collins First Look Program. Baseball and love. A great way to start off the spring season and step away from the tragedy I had just been a part of, however indirectly. My journal entry about this book ended with the statement: "I found myself swept up in the story, chuckling throughout, and hoping love would win out in the end."

Have you ever sat on a jury? What did you think of the experience? Do you remember what books kept you company during the breaks? If you have never been on a jury or end up on one again, what sort of book do you think you would want to bring along to read when you had a free moment?

I currently am immersed in a collection of short stories by Catherine Brady. It is called The Mechanics of Falling and Other Stories. She has a great way with words. I look forward to finishing it up and hope you will stop by to read my review later this week.

Week in Review:
Monday at the Theater: Grease
Tuesday Adventures
Reviews: Presenting Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville (4 reviews)
My Review Policy
Mail Call and Friday Fill-Ins


  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog, and for the comments.

    I have to get my hands on that Kluger book. I read The Last Days of Summer in January and loved it.

    I'll watch for your review of the Brady book. I haven't had the best luck with short stories...

  2. I've never served on a jury before, but have been called to jury duty countless times. When I worked, I was pretty excited about this. A whole day to just sit and read, undisturbed! Because of the thousands of murder mystery books I've read, I think I would have an appreciation for seeing the process first hand!

  3. WoW jury duty and a murder trial to boot. That must have been a fascinating case. I have never been called on for a trial, but have had to report 3 or 4 times, but I was then dismissed (something shaky about my type I guess LOL)

  4. Maybe you could write a book about your jury experience;-) Falling a sleep during the autopsy photos is pretty bad. I hope you have a great week Wendy!

  5. Hi Wendy, I don't have any experience in jury duty. Thanks for sharing it with us. It's interesting...

    I have the Black Jewels trilogy in my TBR. I heard many good things about the series too.

  6. Man, I STILL have to read the third book in the Black Jewels trilogy and I read the first two quite some time ago!

  7. I've never been on a jury, and now I probably never will be, since I'm an attorney. But if I WERE on one (or just to get me through being called), I'd probably take some comfort reading...L.M. Montgomery maybe? Either that or magazines, or maybe short stories, which are easy to dip in and out of. Or maybe a nice cozy mystery. As usual, I just can't decide.

  8. I've not had to do jury service, and I'm quite glad. I think I would be afraid of the responsibility, especially on such a serious case as this. It sounds like you had an interesting experience though. I love the Black Jewels trilogy, that certainly would be a good way of getting away from harsh reality!

  9. I've never had to serve on a jury (I fear just writing that will result in a jury summons in my mailbox within 30 days!) From what I've heard, most jury service is pretty mundane so I'd probably bring whatever book I would have read anyway. However, if I found myself on something as harrowing as a murder trial, I would choose light fare and nothing related to mystery or crime!

    Great post today!

  10. I've only sat on one jury, and it was a Federal case involving the FBI. A young man who was an almost instant millionaire, and then nothing when the dot com bubble burst. Fraud, embezzlement, not declaring assets, moving said assets across state lines, divorced wife and young children, mistress, cocaine... Nothing violent, but very serious.

    He was convicted, and several of us were uneasy and unhappy about sentencing a man to 20 years even though we believed him guilty. The Federal judge called us into his chambers afterward and commended us. He said he knew how difficult it was, but he believed our verdict was correct. It made us feel better.

    It was a fascinating experience, but a heavy responsibility. I had no idea how much making a decision would weigh on me.

  11. I was on a jury for a medical malpractice trial. They were asking for 8 million. We awarded 550,000. It was crazy. I wish I'd known more about the process because after the fact when the opposing sides paralegals called me to hash it out (I was foreman) they both brought up good points that we hadn't even considered in the jury room.

  12. I've never been on a jury. In fact, even though I've been registered to vote for 33 years now, I've only gotten one jury summons. They contacted me before the date and told me that I didn't need to come. Being a mystery reader, I've always wanted to see the process. However, my husband has served on two juries, once as the foreman. Both were violent crimes and one was for harming a little child. We had a child of the same age at the time and he was amazed that he was even selected. Anyway, it was very hard for him in that case. I saw how much responsibility it involved and how it weighed on him. I'm not so sure what I would want at this point, to be called or not be called. I also always thought that I wouldn't be selected because my father was a state policeman for 30+ years.

    On another note, I've heard so many people recommend the Black Jewel Trilogy. Must put it on my radar at some point. Good to hear it is something you really enjoyed.

  13. I've never been on a jury before and reading your thoughts was interesting. I've never heard of Brady so I can't wait to read your review.

  14. Great post. I loved that Jury bit so very much. Fascinating account.

    Sunday Book Coveting

  15. I've been called a number of times but only put on a jury once. It was criminal - a young guy was accused of stealing boxes of soap detergent off a delivery truck and the value raised it to the level of a felony. The prosecution's case was pretty iffy - I remember that they claimed he had run from point A to point B (where he was picked up) in some kind of record time which seemed unlikely since there was an interstate in between to cross along with climbing fences along the way. None of us really thought it was possible. Plus he didn't match the description that went out over the police radio - his clothes were entirely different. We let him off and wondered why they bothered; but then saw that he was arrested as soon as the trial was over for something else.

    I'm called for April and I'm already thinking about what book I'm going to bring.

  16. Nope, I've never been on a jury, but my husband has served every single place we've lived (except France, of course).

  17. I've been on jury duty a couple of times, but usually my cases were settled before they actually got into the courtroom. It was more waiting around then anything else.

    Almost Being in Love sounds like a good book.

    Have a great week!

  18. Anne Bishop yay! You know, I know I'll return to those books many times in the future, but I'll miss the feeling of reading them for the first time. I wish I could experience it again! I love it when books make me feel this.

  19. Oh! I loved Kluger's book The Last Days of Summer, so I'm tickled pink that you enjoyed the one you mentioned. :)

    I LOVE serving jury duty! I'm called a lot, but have only been chosen for one. I did not read during the jury process because I needed to get up and move! The majority of the group took "field trips" during our lunch periods. However, I've been called a lot, so I have to sit and wait until all juries are chosen. I read very light books during that time. I'm constantly interrupted so a book that doesn't require any deep thinking is best. Also, I don't want to draw attention to myself by laughing out loud, blurting out something like WHAT!?! or having others watch my facial expressions.

  20. i sat on a jury last february (and blogged about it on my life blog-curlywurlygurly). it was only a small case--a motor vehicle accident--but i had so much anxiety during the trial. each night i had dreams about either being thrown off the jury or about the plaintiff coming after me if i didn't find in his favor. i could never serve on a criminal trial! i didn't have any time to read because 'we, the jury' had so much fun together. we hung out and just enjoyed the change of scenery.

  21. Mary - I've heard great things about The Last Days of Summer. I want to read that one eventually.

    Short stories have grown on me in recent years. I tend to like certain kinds more than others.

    Sandy - Haha! I know exactly what you mean. That's exactly how I look at it when I am called to jury duty. A free day of reading. :-) It is interesting too to go through the selection process--it's a great opportunity to people watch. I've only served on the one jury so far, but I would like to do it again.

    Diane - It really was. You can bet the mystery lover in me was especially pleased. I get called to report about every other year it seems. My county is pretty active about it--but then my county is also terribly behind in court cases and has had to borrow judges and make impromptu courtrooms to try and clear up some of the backlog. It makes getting called even more likely--at least to report in.

    Kristy - Maybe I could! It really was an eye opening experience. Both in good and bad ways.

    What irked me was that everyone knew the guy was sleeping--he was snoring even--and it didn't seem to matter.

    I hope you have a great week too!

    Alice - The American justice system is interesting--and complex.

    I think you will like Bishop's books, Alice. :-)

    Kelly - Oh! I am not sure I could be so patient. :-)

    Lexi - I was really surprised that I was selected for a case involving domestic violence given my occupation, but it seemed that my role as supervisor was what they were most after. The attorneys wanted people who would be able to make difficult decisions. During the selection process, they seemed to center around that--asking me if I had ever fired anyone and that sort of thing.

    A little bit of trivia--the prosecutor on that case is my boss' spouse. She wasn't my boss at the time, of course, but I think that's an interesting small world kind of coincidence.

    Your reading ideas are good ones. It can be distracting, sitting in the jury room with so many other people. So something light or short would probably work best unless you're good at blocking everything out.

    Mariel - I don't mind the responsibility, although I think I might have difficulty with a death penalty case. I am not sure I would want to have that weighing on my shoulders.

    I really do enjoy the Black Jewels books. I look forward to catching up with them. :-)

    Laura - Oh! I hope not. I hope that if you don't want to be on a jury you don't have to be. :-) I do like the experience though. The last time I was called, I was really sick and so was glad they didn't pick me, but usually I'm praying that they will. LOL Hopefully it would an interesting one. I'd be really curious to sit in on a civil trial.

    Jenclair - I bet that was interesting! I know a few people had a hard time with deciding on a verdict on my jury because they kept thinking of how young the defendant was and how long he'd be in prison. The judge had made it clear we weren't to take that into consideration--that it wasn't our choice. Even so, I think it would be easier in a murder case to accept a harsher sentence than in one like you described.

    I do know what you mean about the decision weighing on you. I don't regret that he was convicted, but it's still a very real and big decision we made that day. It had an impact on so many lives.

  22. Lisa - I bet that was really interesting! I know what you mean about wishing you'd known more ahead of time--especially with a case like that. In any trial, you are limited to the information presented to you in the courtroom. While I understand the reasoning behind it, it sometimes feels, from a juror's perspective, very limiting.

    Kay - Wow! I get called so regularly, it's almost like clockwork. I hope you do get a chance to serve at least once (if you want to :-)). I can imagine the trial involving the child was very difficult on your husband.

    Your father's occupation could very well get in the way of your being chosen for a criminal court, depending on your answers to the selection questions. No one's ever cared that my cousin was a detective/now Sargent for a local law enforcement agency though.

    Vasilly - I always struggle with reviewing short story books, but I'll do my best. I'm really enjoying the book.

    Gautami - Thank you! It's an experience I imagine I won't soon forget.

    Maryb - Cases like that are hard. It sounds like you made the right decision given the evidence. You can't convict someone of a crime if the prosecution can't prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Kathy - Haha! Your husband must have "perfect juror" tattooed on his forehead. Does he enjoy serving at least?

    Yvonne - That's sometimes the worst--the waiting. Unless you have a book handy. :-)

    Nymeth - I would like to read them again too. They made such an impression on me. You're right though--it won't be quite the same as reading them for the first time.

    Joy - Another jury lover! Yay!

    Like you, I seem to be called a lot, but have only served once. I took a lot of walks too, during the longer breaks at least, but we had a lot of little ones that didn't give us the opportunity to stray far.

    Booklineandsinker - I'll have to go back and read about your jury experience.

    I can't say I worried at all that the defendant or his family might come after me--perhaps if it had been a gang related case. I did wonder why the alcoholic on the jury wasn't thrown off for sleeping during the trial though. And a lot of jury members were talking about the case on the breaks even though they weren't supposed to. The judge reprimanded them, but nothing more serious happened. I think they just wanted to get the trial over with.

    I am not a very social person and so tend to keep to myself. I preferred to find a little corner and read when I could. :-)

  23. Wow! A murder case. I bet it wasn't as exciting as in the books.

  24. I have only been called for jury duty once, but I ended up not having to go - something about living in another country at the time got me out of it!

    I too struggled to get into Daughter of the Blood, but by the time I had read the next couple of books I was totally immersed and now that is one of my favourite series!

  25. I've been called to jury duty several times but never been chosen and I hope it stays that way. I know, that's terrible! I just get very emotional and I honestly don't know if I could handle it. I mean, a really serious case.

  26. I have always wanted to be on a jury. If you've ever seen the movie Ernest goes to Jail, then you know what I mean, Vern ;-)

    I've received the "you're in the pool" papers twice, once for local and this year for federal court. But, alas... never called, even.

    Thanks for stopping by Mt. TBR, btw... I am feeling much-much-MUCH better today. I've ate real food today and I walked to the grocery store and back... yesterday, I took out the trash and was so tired from it I had to take a nap! So I'm definitely better :-D

  27. Nikki - LOL Maybe not as melodramatic, but it was fascinating just the same.

    Marg - That would be one way to get out of jury duty. :-)

    It's a great series, isn't it?

    Iliana - If you do get called to serve, hopefully it won't be anything you can't handle. :-) I imagine it would depend on the case.

    Kookaidmom - LOL Yes, I saw that movie--it's been a long time, but I still remember a little of it. :-)

    I am so glad you are feeling better, Alisha. But now you've gone and mentioned a nap. It's so tempting . . .

  28. I've never been called for jury duty and if I ever am, I hope it isn't a case like you had to listen to!! The Black Jewel books sound great! Never heard of them until now...yes, I am a loser sometimes :) You're the second person today you said they were reading Catherine I must find out what this book is all about!! and of course I will be back for your review later this week!!
    ~Hope your Sunday was great and here's to a wonderful week ahead :)

  29. I have never been on a jury, but have always thought it would be fascinating. I love to watch Court TV and shows like that and though I know real life is not always what you see on t.v., it would still be very interesting, I think.

  30. I love when you do these flashback posts. It always makes me wonder what I was reading back then. I haven't served on a jury but it was interesting to hear your take on the process. I've heard a lot about the Anne Bishop trilogy but I haven't checked it out yet.

  31. I have yet to serve on a jury. I'm thinking I would need to read something like the "Mitford" books during jury duty if I was ever put on a case like the one you were on. It would be so hard to have the reality of such tragedy right there in front of me.

    Hey, I joined Sunday Salon this week! I had a lot of fun.

    BTW, I have a feeling I will like the Kitty books, and, just in case I don't, I promise I will not blame you :o)

  32. Staci - Maybe I'm a little too much of a crime fiction lover. LOL I find criminal trials like that really interesting. Seeing how it is really done is even more intriguing to me. The investigation and court process, mind you. Not the crime itself.

    The Black Jewels books aren't quite as well known as I think they should be--and so don't feel bad about having never heard of them before now. :-)

    I hope you have a good week too!

    April - I like watching Court TV sometimes too. :-) It definitely is an interesting experience to see first hand.

    Samantha - Thank you! I have fun doing them. Now that I am reading the journal I kept of what was going on in my life at that time, it's even more interesting (at least to me). Unfortunately, I stopped keeping that kind of journal down the road. It's been interesting to see how it ties into my reading, if at all.

    Terri - Haha! Yes, the Mitford books would definitely be a great way to escape a particularly nasty trial.

    I am glad to see you've joined the Sunday Salon!

    I hope you do enjoy the Kitty books. You can blame me if you don't like them, I don't mind. Just don't tell me. Just kidding.

  33. I work for the state so I am always being called for jury duty, but for some reason I never make the case. I find that I am easily distracted while on jury duty. People are odd and I tend to like to watch them so the book I bring has to be a page turner.

    I tend to gravitate towards Lincoln Child / Douglas Preston books or Dean Koontz, which is not something I read every day. They seem to keep me busy.

  34. First things first -- I need to get a copy of Almost Like Being in Love. I thought The Last Days of Summer was fabulous and had it on my Top Ten list last year.

    I've served on a jury only once - 20 years ago. It was a domestic violence case and quite upsetting. I was in my late 20s and as I recall, the case ran almost 2 weeks.

    I doubt I'll ever get called again since my stepdaughter (and two other young people) was killed by her former boyfriend. One of the questions asked on the form they send out to potential jurors is (at least here in Nebraska), "Has anyone in your family been involved in a violent crime? Please explain."

    I sat through a week of testimony when the man who killed our daughter was tried and sentenced to life in prison. It was the worst experience of my life. And I saw how deeply it affected those in the courtroom who were not personally involved (the judge, the bailiff, the attorneys, the deputies and the detectives). The case never went to a jury trial (the killer plead guilty), but I can only imagine what mark that testimony would have left on anyone sitting on a jury for such a case.

    Crazy world.

  35. Ti - Now Child and Preston books would be good at holding one's attention in a distracting environment! I can see why you'd want to have one of their books handy at the courthouse. I need to read more of their books, now that you mention them.

    Les - I hope you enjoy it if you do read Almost Like Being in Love. It's a fun book. :-)

    As much as I talk about how fascinating and interesting the court process and serving on a jury is, it really is a serious matter. There are real people with real tragedies involved. And as you said, it does impact all those involved, whether indirectly or directly.

    I remember the day the woman's children were brought to court. And all those days seeing not only the victim's family but the defendant's family too. It's not an experience I will ever forget.

    I know I've said it before, but I am sorry for your loss and everything you had to go through. A friend of mine is going through something similar right now, only it was her uncle who was murdered. The trial has just started--three years after the murder. It's been very hard on her. I can't even imagine.

  36. I'm glad you enjoyed The Black Jewel trilogy, Wendy! I've these books for some time but just haven't got around of reading them yet!

    I can't share my experience about the jury duty since I hadn't had one but I thought it's interesting to be able to hear the trials first-hand!

  37. We don't have anything like jury duty here in India. But I used to love watching The Practice. I was always fascinating to watch the court proceedings even if it was in a TV series.

  38. I've never been called to jury duty, that I know of anyway. That must have been fascinating, but also very emotional to be on the jury in a murder case. I have no idea what I would read in that situation. Probably something light and fun, easy to escape into.

    I haven't read much adult fantasy, but you're putting me in the mood for some. I've heard of Anne Bishop's series before and it does sound intriguing.

  39. You're quite right about the defendant's family and how painful the trial process is for them, too. Sad all the way around.

    Thank you for your kind words. I'm so sorry your friend is going through a similar situation. Such a shame that the court systems take so long to get to the actual trial. Three years is definitely too long. Ours was 3 1/2 years later. Shameful, imho.

  40. I've never sat on a jury although I was called once when I was much younger. My boss couldn't let me off work at the time so they let me off. I think it would be an interesting experience except I'd be heartbroken in something like a murder trial. Not sure I could be one of those people who stay impartial so they probably wouldn't pick me anyway.

  41. Hi Literary....I don't even want to jinx myself by saying this but I have never...........jury. (fill in the blank) LOL. Your experience sounds like you had a really difficult and gruesome trial to handle as a juror.
    A teacher friend of mine had to sit on a case once that was mob related and that was very frightening to her.
    She had personal escorts everyday. Isn't that awful???

    Your trilogy sounds way to tempting or did you mean that you don't like the series as much now.

    I'll answer your email later. :)

  42. Wow I have never been on a jury (this is just fine with me), but that sounds like a very interesting, but emotional experience. I have to imagine it was hard to see some of the evidence (like the autopsy photos).

    I would definitely want to read an escapist book!

  43. Melody - It's a great series. :-)

    Eliza - I used to watch The Practice too--at least in the early years. :-)

    Nat - I haven't tried anything else by Anne Bishop besides the books set in the Dark Realm. I hope to one day try some of her other books.

    I am glad I got the opportunity to experience a case like that as a juror, although I do wish there wasn't a reason anyone ever had to.

    Les - Thank you. It really makes you wonder what the court's definition of a speedy trial is. It's such a complex process.

    I had to testify on a professional level in a murder trial last year--eight years after the fact. Mind you, it was the third trial, but for the families involved, it was never ending.

    Dar - I am fortunate that my employer pays my wages even when I am on jury duty.

    Wisteria - So many people don't want to do jury service, but I really find it fascinating. I wish I could be called more often than just once a year or every other year.

    A mob related case would be a bit frightening. That or a gang related one. You hear so many stories of retaliation. I don't really know if that's just my love for crime fiction coming through or a real threat though. I do have a rather vivid imagination. :-)

    I still really like the series. They're great books.

    Kim - I do think being on a jury is a good experience, and I would love the opportunity to sit on a jury again. Not necessarily the same type of case, mind you.

  44. What an experience!! I've never served on a jury, but I think it would be fascinating (or could be). That must have been a tough trial to sit through.

  45. I've only served on a jury once. It was a day-long trial between two business owners whose businesses shared a restroom.

    One business was a pizza joint/bar and the other was a pasta maker. The pasta maker stored his supplies in a room that was part of the restroom (I don't know how in the world that was legal). The pasta guy was upset because the bar owner didn't clean the bathroom very often and he said you could tell that there had been a lot of drunks in there. The pasta guy (very short skinny Asian man) went over to complain and the bar owner (huge hefty guy) told him to leave. The hefty guy then alleged that the skinny guy was pushing him around. Nobody believed it. We were all happy that the creepy bar owner lost.

    Needless to say I NEVER ate at or even visited either establishment after hearing the sordid details of the bathroom.

  46. I had jury duty once and was dismissed. That's as far as I got to the witnessing the jury process.

    Can't wait to hear your thoughts on the Brady book. I just reviewed it. It's hard being the first stop on the tour!

    Diary of an Eccentric

  47. Trish - It is an interesting process, that's for sure. I was glad to be a part of it.

    Alyce - Ick. That would be a big turn off--eating in that restaurant and the pasta joint, I mean.

    Anna - You are a hard act to follow, Anna. :-) I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the book though. I held off reading your post and interview until I'd had a chance to finish it and write mine up.


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