Review: Gray Mountain by John Grisham

gray-mountain“John Grisham has a new hero . . . and she’s full of surprises

The year is 2008 and Samantha Kofer’s career at a huge Wall Street law firm is on the fast track—until the recession hits and she gets downsized, furloughed, escorted out of the building. Samantha, though, is one of the “lucky” associates. She’s offered an opportunity to work at a legal aid clinic for one year without pay, after which there would be a slim chance that she’d get her old job back.
In a matter of days Samantha moves from Manhattan to Brady, Virginia, population 2,200, in the heart of Appalachia, a part of the world she has only read about. Mattie Wyatt, lifelong Brady resident and head of the town’s legal aid clinic, is there to teach her how to “help real people with real problems.” For the first time in her career, Samantha prepares a lawsuit, sees the inside of an actual courtroom, gets scolded by a judge, and receives threats from locals who aren’t so thrilled to have a big-city lawyer in town. And she learns that Brady, like most small towns, harbors some big secrets.
Her new job takes Samantha into the murky and dangerous world of coal mining, where laws are often broken, rules are ignored, regulations are flouted, communities are divided, and the land itself is under attack from Big Coal. Violence is always just around the corner, and within weeks Samantha finds herself engulfed in litigation that turns deadly.” – Goodreads

Well. It’s about time, y’all. Twenty-one years after Darby Shaw’s shining debut in John Grisham’s The Pelican Brief, he finally introduces his readers to a new female protagonist: Meet Samantha Kofer, former associate attorney at a prestigious law firm in New York City, who has been displaced after the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers and the beginning of America’s most recent recession. Luckily, Samantha’s firm makes her an offer that most of her co-workers do not receive: work for free at a non-profit legal aid clinic for one year, and possibly be brought back to her former position at the exclusive Wall Street law firm.

Thus, Samantha finds herself in the middle of coal country: Brady, Virginia, population 2200. The staff of the Mountain Legal Aid Clinic – Mattie, Annette, Claudelle, and Barbara – welcome Samantha into their chaotic midst and introduce her to real-life law: working face-to-face with real people in real trouble, facing opponents in the courtroom, and fighting for justice. Samantha takes clients under her wing and fights for them – spurring investigations that, in coal country, can mean big trouble for her clients – and for herself.

To echo many others, Gray Mountain: A Novel by John Grisham (October, 2014) is primarily an “issue” novel – Grisham is making a strong statement about coal mining and its evils, specifically mountain-top strip mining and the destruction it brings about to both the environment and to the defenseless population of Appalachia. It is this statement, however, that takes over the novel and keeps it from becoming what it could be. I felt that there was potential for a great story here, but instead there were a collection of various plot lines, none of them especially pulse-quickening. Grisham’s writing is flawless as ever, of course, and Gray Mountain is still a good read, although die-hard Grisham fans might feel a tad disappointed. If you’re looking for a dazzling legal thriller, you might want to look elsewhere. If you’re looking for a good read about environmental issues relevant to the population today, you’re in the right place. You can check out the book trailer for Gray Mountain below:

Gray Mountain by John Grisham. Read it today!

3 stars

Source: Personal Library



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Is Math Instruction Unnecessary?

John Bennett is a Math teacher and a homeschooling father of four, as well as an outspoken advocate of educational reform. He supports an unusual proposal: that we cease to require Math instruction in middle and high school. He explains why in the video below.

John is the creator of Pentagrid Puzzles, a new puzzle form he designed to challenge deductive logic and visual-spatial reasoning (you can purchase Volume I here). He has also created several other BrainGames, for which he provides instructions on his blog.

While I am certainly not going to go so far as to cut out math instruction from our homeschool curriculum, I do plan to incorporate Pentagrid Puzzles into The Boy’s math instruction. He struggles with visual-spatial issues, and this will be a great way for him to work on them. Not to mention, it shouldn’t be hard to convince him to work on Math when it involves fun games!

What do you think about John Bennett’s supposition that Math instruction is unnecessary?


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Kindle Unlimited: Boss or Bust?


Is Amazon showing some love for their Kindle readers, or what? The online retailers announced a new program today for Kindle users: Kindle Unlimited. Members of Kindle Unlimited will have access to over 600,000 titles, thousands of which come with free Audible audiobooks that can be listened to via Kindle tablets or the free Kindle reading app. Additionally, Kindle Unlimited members will receive a free three-month Audible membership, providing them with access to over 150,000 titles. How much will this cost you? Simply $9.99 per month. What a deal! Or is it?

Dealio-schmealio, is what I say. $9.99 per month adds up to $119.88 per year. To me, personally, the titles available via Kindle Unlimited are not worth $120.00 each year. Don’t get me wrong – there are some good ones available; just not as many as I would prefer. I am sure that there are many of you out there who will jump at this deal and it will do wonders for your reading life. More power to you! However, many of the titles that were of interest to me are either already in my personal library, or are available via my online public libraries. The rest, well, I’m willing to hoof it to the local library and read them in print – for free.

Take a look at the Kindle Unlimited trailer:



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Tracy Chevalier: Finding the Story Inside the Painting

Tracy Chevalier: Finding the story inside the painting

I loved The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier, and was intrigued to hear that she had presented a TED Talk discussing how she divined the inspiration for her novel, Girl With The Pearl Earring, from the famous Vermeer painting. Take a look (or listen) and see what you think.


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