Gray Mountain

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Since moving to D.C., I’ve learned a little bit about the geography of Virginia and West Virginia and how rugged it can be. This is where John Grisham’s 2014 novel, Gray Mountain, takes place.

Samantha Kofer is a law associate who works at a high-powered real estate firm in New York City. When the 2008 recession hits and she is furloughed, she faces the opportunity of interning at a nonprofit for a year with the possibility of coming back to work at the firm. The internship at a legal aid clinic brings her to the small Appalachian coal town of Brady, Virginia, far from the city life she is accustomed to. Although skeptical at first, she slowly begins to acclimate to country life and the diverse people and experiences it offers.

With Grisham’s lawyer background, he did a good job at explaining the legal processes and jargon that appear throughout the story. I liked that the story involved lawsuits in a small town, a change from most that take place in major cities like New York or Los Angeles. However, there were too many cases that he introduced that didn’t go anywhere. Also, I felt like the terrain of the coal mining took up the focus of the story rather than the characters themselves. Most of the pages are filled with descriptions of what the coal does to the environment and the negative effect it has on people. It’s essential to the plot, but it took too much focus of the story.

When it comes to reading this, I would recommend borrowing this book from the library.





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I first heard about Flipped when I was in college, when one of my classmates mentioned how great the book and movie were. Being the bookworm I am, I decided to read the book when it came up on the DC library’s website.

Written  American author Wendelin Van Draanen, Flipped tells the story of Juli Baker and Bryce Loski, two grade schoolers who live across the street from each other. Although the two are not friends, they regularly interact over the years, with Juli having a big crush on Bryce, although he doesn’t reciprocate it. As the years pass though, Bryce comes to terms about why he cares about Juli and his true feelings toward her. I consider it the classic love story, but through the eyes of grade schoolers.

This novel is written in the style of alternating perspectives of Juli and Bryce. I found both of their accounts of second through eighth grade hilarious, because it reminded me of many events from my childhood, from climbing trees in the neighborhood to hatching baby chicks in the first grade classroom.Van Draanen is very gifted at writing from both a girl and boy perspective, and capturing the aura of what childhood is like.

When it comes to the messages of the story, Van Draanen handled many of them delicately. One example is when Bryce’s father regularly judges appearance of the Baker’s home and personalities, without knowing the true reason behind their financial situation. Bryce later finds out what Juli’s uncle has special needs  and requires extra care. When he tells his father, who reacts by saying “no wonder they’re like that,” his remark horrifies Bryce. I liked how Van Draanen wasn’t afraid of portraying the realistic tense moments between children and their parents.

I definitely recommend this novel to anyone who appreciates love stories and reading about grade school adventures. I’ll for sure be checking out the movie adaptation.

What Lies Behind

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Used book sales are usually places to find books that might be older, or even out of print. In this case, though, I found this novel that was published just last year.

J.T. Ellison’s thriller What Lies Behind follows Dr. Samantha “Sam” Owens, a medical examiner and college professor, who lives in Washington, D.C. When an undercover FBI agent is found murdered and an ex-medical student severely injured in a Georgetown apartment, Dr. Owens is called in to examine the scene by her friend, homicide detective Darren Fletcher. It’s soon discovered that the FBI undercover was investigating a much larger conspiracy involving bioterrorism that could threaten the entire population. Sam and Fletcher must figure out who is behind the conspiracy in a matter of hours.

Being that this novel combined two huge interests of mine, Washington D.C. and police work, the story instantly appealed to me. The writing is in third person, but the chapters change perspective, following not only Sam’s actions but also the activities of another FBI agent, and, in some cases, the perpetrators. This sort of writing style gives the characters and stories more depth since we get the chance to see what they are thinking and feeling.

Another element I enjoyed was its setting of the city where I currently live. Ellison’s descriptions of the District were very vivid and accurate; I could easily imagine where these characters were going in almost every scene. It wasn’t surprising to find out that Ellison had once worked in the White House and lived in the city. I liked reading a crime story that was set in the nation’s capital as opposed to the common settings of New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles (at least for those popular crime shows.)

I definitely recommend this novel to anybody who likes a crime or thriller story, or is an avid fan of the Law & Order series. This novel is actually the fourth in a series, and I plan to check out the preceding books in the near future.