Archives for December 2017

Camino Island

Camino IslandCamino Island by John Grisham
Published by Random House Audio Publishing Group on June 6th 2017
Format: audiobook
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
See it @ Goodreads
three-stars


Synopsis


A gang of thieves stage a daring heist from a secure vault deep below Princeton University's Firestone Library. Their loot is priceless, but Princeton has insured it for twenty-five million dollars. Bruce Cable owns a popular bookstore in the sleepy resort town of Santa Rosa on Camino Island in Florida. He makes his real money, though, as a prominent dealer in rare books. Very few people know that he occasionally dabbles in the black market of stolen books and manuscripts. Mercer Mann is a young novelist with a severe case of writer's block who has recently been laid off from her teaching position. She is approached by an elegant, mysterious woman working for an even more mysterious company. A generous offer of money convinces Mercer to go undercover and infiltrate Bruce Cable's circle of literary friends, ideally getting close enough to him to learn his secrets. But eventually Mercer learns far too much, and there's trouble in paradise as only John Grisham can deliver it.

My thoughts on this book

Nice easy read with a fair to meddling story line. Listened to this as I did chores around the house. Would be a great listen while driving in to work.

About John Grisham

Long before his name became synonymous with the modern legal thriller, he was working 60-70 hours a week at a small Southaven, Mississippi, law practice, squeezing in time before going to the office and during courtroom recesses to work on his hobby—writing his first novel.

Born on February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a construction worker and a homemaker, John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Realizing he didn’t have the right stuff for a pro career, he shifted gears and majored in accounting at Mississippi State University. After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade in Southaven, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. In 1983, he was elected to the state House of Representatives and served until 1990.

One day at the DeSoto County courthouse, Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl’s father had murdered her assailants. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work, Grisham spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987. Initially rejected by many publishers, it was eventually bought by Wynwood Press, who gave it a modest 5,000 copy printing and published it in June 1988.

That might have put an end to Grisham’s hobby. However, he had already begun his next book, and it would quickly turn that hobby into a new full-time career—and spark one of publishing’s greatest success stories. The day after Grisham completed A Time to Kill, he began work on another novel, the story of a hotshot young attorney lured to an apparently perfect law firm that was not what it appeared. When he sold the film rights to The Firm to Paramount Pictures for $600,000, Grisham suddenly became a hot property among publishers, and book rights were bought by Doubleday. Spending 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, The Firm became the bestselling novel of 1991.

The successes of The Pelican Brief, which hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and The Client, which debuted at number one, confirmed Grisham’s reputation as the master of the legal thriller. Grisham’s success even renewed interest in A Time to Kill, which was republished in hardcover by Doubleday and then in paperback by Dell. This time around, it was a bestseller.

Since first publishing A Time to Kill in 1988, Grisham has written one novel a year (his other books are The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Last Juror, The Broker, Playing for Pizza, The Appeal, The Associate, The Confession, The Litigators, Calico Joe, The Racketeer, Sycamore Row, and Gray Mountain) and all of them have become international bestsellers. There are currently over 300 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 40 languages. Nine of his novels have been turned into films (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, A Painted House, The Runaway Jury, and Skipping Christmas), as was an original screenplay, The Gingerbread Man. The Innocent Man (October 2006) marked his first foray into non-fiction, and Ford County (November 2009) was his first short story collection.

Grisham took time off from writing for several months in 1996 to return, after a five-year hiatus, to the courtroom. He was honoring a commitment made before he had retired from the law to become a full-time writer: representing the family of a railroad brakeman killed when he was pinned between two cars. Preparing his case with the same passion and dedication as his books’ protagonists, Grisham successfully argued his clients’ case, earning them a jury award of $683,500—the biggest verdict of his career.

When he’s not writing, Grisham devotes time to charitable causes, including most recently his Rebuild The Coast Fund, which raised 8.8 million dollars for Gulf Coast relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He also keeps up with his greatest passion: baseball. The man who dreamed of being a professional baseball player now serves as the local Little League commissioner. The six ballfields he built on his property have played host to over 350 kids on 26 Little League teams.

Janesville: An American Story

Janesville: An American StoryJanesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein
on April 18th 2017
Pages: 368
Format: hardback
Genres: Nonfiction, Politics & Social Sciences
See it @ Goodreads
four-half-stars


Synopsis


“Moving and magnificently well-researched...Janesville joins a growing family of books about the evisceration of the working class in the United States. What sets it apart is the sophistication of its storytelling and analysis.” —The New York Times

A Washington Post reporter’s intimate account of the fallout from the closing of a General Motors’ assembly plant in Janesville, Wisconsin—Paul Ryan’s hometown—and a larger story of the hollowing of the American middle class.

This is the story of what happens to an industrial town in the American heartland when its factory stills—but it’s not the familiar tale. Most observers record the immediate shock of vanished jobs, but few stay around long enough to notice what happens next, when a community with a can-do spirit tries to pick itself up.

Pulitzer Prize winner Amy Goldstein has spent years immersed in Janesville, Wisconsin where the nation’s oldest operating General Motors plant shut down in the midst of the Great Recession, two days before Christmas of 2008. Now, with intelligence, sympathy, and insight into what connects and divides people in an era of economic upheaval, she makes one of America’s biggest political issues human. Her reporting takes the reader deep into the lives of autoworkers, educators, bankers, politicians, and job re-trainers to show why it’s so hard in the twenty-first century to recreate a healthy, prosperous working class.

For this is not just a Janesville story or a Midwestern story. It’s an American story.

My thoughts on this book

Janesville was devastated by the closing of the General Motors plant in December 2008. Amy Goldstein’s book takes us through the five years following the plant closure. Janesville survived the loss of the plant and all of the supporting industries but it never finally recovered.

It was refreshing to get an honest appraisal of what happen in Janesville. Millions of dollars flowed into Janesville for job retraining which proved to be a dismal failure. None of the jobs that Janeville residents retrained for ever returned them to where they were financially before the plant closing. Many of the folks were ill-equipped for retraining as they had no computer skills. As the residents struggled, the city and county attempted to respond by developing identifying possible job skills for retraining it citizens. Various forces worked against some of the folks that were retrained. Even after re-training wages were never equal to what they were paid working for General Motors. Going back you school after being in the work-force for 15 to 20 years is hard. Training a new trade is hard, but learning a new trade in a community where the economic base has been destroyed is near impossible.

Today Janesville, has an underemployment rate of just over 4% but the area has not recovered to where it was prior to the plant closing. There are still residents that are commuting to other GM plants rather than take a cut in wages. I don’t see the current administration doing anything substantial to return Janesville to prior economic status. Although Janesville is the home of Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, Goldstein makes it clear that Ryan did not involve himself in the in the community as one thought that he should. Janesville is just another example of how we are losing our manufacturing base in this country, while our corporate and civic leaders are doing nothing to find new avenues of meaningful and well-paying employment for its middle class.

I would highly recommend this book, it is honest and forthright.

About Amy Goldstein

Authors - amy_goldstein.jpg

Amy Goldstein is a staff writer for the Washington Post, where she writes about national social policy issues. Her pieces focus on health care reform, housing, Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, welfare, and the strains put on the social safety net by the recent recession. During two decades at the Post, she has covered the White House and many notable news events of recent times.

Goldstein was part of a team of Washington Post reporters awarded the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for the newspaper’s coverage of 9/11 and the government’s response to the attacks. She was also a 2009 Pulitzer Prize finalist for national reporting for an investigative series she cowrote on the medical treatment of immigrants detained by the federal government. Goldstein is a visiting research professor at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute. She holds an AB in American civilization from Brown University and was a 2005 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.