Thursday, January 08, 2015

Oh look, it's the woman we ordered.

My first two books read this year couldn't be more different...

For the first, it's a little unfair to John Grisham, but I probably would have rated this book 4 stars if he didn't write it. It was a pretty good book, but I kept waiting for the typical Grisham-flair to pop up - a huge courtroom battle, an epic good versus evil duel, etc.

Instead, the battle and storyline I would have really wanted to read about goes on in the background as a secondary storyline. The main plot follows Samantha Kofer, a young law associate at a powerful firm in New York City. However, when the recession hits in '08, Samantha finds herself furloughed and in order to keep her health insurance, and to potentially get her old job back, must intern at a rural legal aid clinic in Brady, Virginia.

There Samantha meets a cast of characters, including Mattie, who runs the clinic; her nephew, Donovan, also a lawyer; Donovan's shady brother, Jeff; and a host of other rural townsfolk. She also gets her first taste of real law. We, the reader, learn about the atrocities of Big Coal and strip mining, including Black Lung Disease, which the book goes into in great detail (and which personally, makes me want to become a lawyer or social worker, as it's all awful).

It's interesting to have Grisham write in the voice of a young female. It takes me back to Darby Shaw (of The Client - one of my all-time favorite Grisham novels), though Samantha is *no* Darby Shaw, by any stretch of the imagination. She's a bit spineless, though, really, she's not given much story to work with. The first 3/4 of the book I mostly enjoyed and then the last 1/4 just sort of tapers off. It almost seems as if a sequel is in order, but who knows.

Again, I think I might have liked Samantha and her story a bit more if it wasn't Grisham, as I might have expected a bit less. It's a good read, but leaves you wanting more.


For the second read of 2015, I requested Olivia Pierce's The In Between from NetGalley on a whim, based on the book's description. I confess that the book was not exactly what I was expecting. The novel appears to tell a typical tale of YA love, but it also spends much of its time in a paranormal, mystical world of the "In Between." It's very odd and I wasn't expecting so much talk of Heaven and Hell, despite the hint from the title.

The story follows Tara Jenkins and Justin Westcroft. Friends as children, they become close again after Tara saves Justin's life, when he nearly drowns in an accident at the public beach. Now in high school, Justin is a popular soccer star, while Tara is just a "regular gal." Tara and Justin quickly fall madly in love and become each other's world.

Part of my issue with this book is just that - Tara and Justin are in high school and the entire book centers on their "great romance" and the idea that they are made for each other, destined for all eternity. Some people pull it off, even if it's a cheesy YA series like Twilight. You find yourself rooting for Bella and Edward. Here... I don't know. Pierce's characters just aren't well-developed enough. I like Tara, but I'm not fully invested in her. I actually cared for Justin a bit more (he seemed to have more of a head on his shoulders), but I don't get to learn enough about him, or really get to know him enough as I read the novel. Instead, you are just left wondering why two young kids are so in love and so convinced, at this age, that they are meant for each other. Instead of falling for their love story, it seems like a Made for TV Special.

Once Justin actually dies (and I'm not giving anything away, the book's summary is forthright in telling you that Tara can't save Justin a second time) and he goes to the "In Between," you find him in this weird mythical, mystical land, and it's just odd. I do feel empathy for Justin as he struggles to get back to Tara, and even for Tara, as she grieves for Justin, but it often feels like two kids playing at being grown up. With the distraction of some weird mystical characters thrown in to boot.

That being said, the book managed to keep my interest. I kept reading, wanting to know what would happen to Justin and Tara. Would they kill them both? Would they be reunited? Surely it wouldn't just end with him stuck here and her still pining away? After all this?! In the end, the ending is rather "pat" and the book just sort of ends.

Come to think of it, this probably *would* make a great Lifetime movie. And I'd no doubt guiltily enjoy it with a box of chocolates.

(Note, I received a free digital copy of The In Between in return for a honest review.)
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