Moonshots ~ by Naveen Jain

This book is about entrepreneurs and how wonderful the world would be if we would all just realize we live in abundance, not scarcity, and that we have enormous opportunity for creativity in the urgent problems of our times. The word “entrepreneur” is used very loosely here, and deliberately so, because it’s a huge buzz word today for thinking big in developing and promoting ideas, getting rich, selling rockets or other techie products (or books) to realize your dream.

The dictionary goes virtually no further in defining “entrepreneur” than to say something about finance and business and I’ve always thought of an entrepreneur as someone who gets loans or takes financial risks for his business, his little enterprise(s). So, when the word is strewn about from the Introduction through the Table of Contents and the Forward before we get to the narrative it’s a clue. Imo, “Moonshots” is a book about business and motivation written for salesmen looking for something extraordinarily great to promote. I think Jain is selling enthusiasm for the future. He’s definitely a motivational writer/speaker in addition to being an entrepreneur himself.

*******
Moonshots: Creating a World of Abundance
by Naveen Jain
2018 / 292 pages
read by Scott R. Pollak
rating: 3.5 / business and money
*******


Anyway, Moonshots is a motivational pitch for thinking big. It’s in the “Business & Money/Business Culture/ Motivation & Self-Improvement” category at Amazon and “Business/Leadership” at Audible. I’d say the category is right on.

Jain could have used the word “evangelists” or “promoters” or “sales crew” but they don’t have the same cachet these days, at least now with the purveyors of ideas rather than products anyway. Jain wants to attract business dreamers to his book – not necessarily Christians – lol. (Although the wanna-be pastors of mega-churches might get quite a lot out of it. )

There are some a few interesting ideas in the book, Helium 3 fusion in Chapter 9 is one, but the subject is treated only to a bare gloss and way beyond the scope of the general reader. I’m not sure how this section is meaningful except to show some actual science in a business, motivational and self-improvement book .

I think it’s probably a good book but I’m just not at all the right reader.

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The Girl from Berlin ~ by Robert Balson

I’ve been following this series for a couple years and with this book am all caught up.  It’s right down my alley being legal mystery an historical fiction.  They’re quite interesting –

 As usual, the structure has a frame story which includes Liam Tagert and Catherine Lockhart and their progress on. a case which goes back decades sometimes – this time to the era of Nazi Germany again – about half of Balson’s books deal with this.

*******
The Girl From Berlin
by Robert Bolson – 2018 / 379 pages
read by Fred Berman – 13h 23m
rating: A- / legal crime- historical
#4 in the Liam Taggert series
*******

Liam and Catherine get a phone call from an old friend who thinks maybe they can help his aunt who lives in Italy. It seems someone is evicting her from her farm where she has lived almost all her life.

They agree and when they get to meet Gabriella they find she is an old woman who is scared to tears of of losing her land. She hands them a small book and tells them to read it.

About 1/3 of the book deals with Gabi’s plight in the 21st century Italian courts, while the other 2/3rds is the historical background presented Gabi’s book. It’s the tragedy of gifted Jewish musicians in Nazi Germany. It is indeed a historical novel. I suspect a good number of the names, places and events are true. And what Balson invented is wonderful.

Balson is not a terribly literary writer, but he brings a legal story to life with deeply felt emotions, twists and thriller aspects plus a great ending.

Although Balson’s series has an overarching plot in the relationship between Liam and Catherine and sometimes prior cases are referred to, they are stand-alone novels in which the individual book’s plot is far more important. They can certainly be read out of order.

Book 1  Once We Were Brothers  – 2013. –  Holocaust (A+)

Book 2 – Saving Sophie.  2015 – Middlel East  (A-)

Book 3 – Karolina’s Twins–  2016 Holocaust – (A-)

Book 4- The Trust. 2017 – Northern Ireland – (A+)

Book 5 – The Girl From Berlin  – 2018 Holocaust – (A)

Some things I Googled:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Philharmonic

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2007/12/reic-d18.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_Furtwängler

Theresienstadt https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theresienstadt_Ghetto

Review: https://rhapsodyinbooks.wordpress.com/2018/11/08/review-of-the-girl-from-berlin-by-ronald-h-balson/

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The Billion Dollar Whale ~ by Bradley Hope and Tom Wright

I love a good true crime novel, especially tech and financial crimes but family crimes of passion will do. Just no serial killelrs please – although if the book is solidly based on the procedurals involved in solving the case I can appreciate it. Over the years I’ve gone from Ann Rule (many) to Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyou. I usually read one or more a month, but it’s not a steady diet. I enjoy historical true crime and stories from more recent headlines.


*******
The Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood and the World
by Bradley Hope and Tom Wright
2018 / 401 pages
Read by Will Colyer
Rating: 8 / true crime – finance
*******

This is the story of Low Taek Jho 
(Jho Low), the main man in the multi-billion 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal which still unfolds in the media today as Malaysia’s new leader along with officials from the US and other entities try to prosecute those involved and recoup some of Malaysia’s 4.5 billion dollars worth of losses.. (It’s mind-bendingly complicated..)   https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/kl-high-court-allows-seizure-of-158-million-from-accounts-of-jho-lows-father

And read more at https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/malaysia-police-chief-jho-low-location-sage-return-
11562412
And there’s always the great Wiki for background:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1Malaysia_Development_Berhad_scandal

This is the story of how Jho Low, a Malaysian businessman from a wealthy family pushed himself from relative obscurity through Wharton college and the elite Harrow college in London to royal circles and then built a financial empire conning whomever crossed his path including the corrupt leader of Malaysia and his spend-happy wife, Goldman Sachs, a couple of Saudi and other princes, Paris Hilton and Leonardo Decaprio plus a host of other stars and millionaires, as well as a couple of old college buddies.

Low was involved in international banking and securities, Hollywood, the music scene, and fantastically expensive art, jewelry, yachts and homes. This is the story of how Jho Low, a Malaysian businessman from a wealthy family pushed himself from relative obscurity through Wharton college and the elite Harrow college in London to royal circles and then built a financial empire on Malaysian government funds.

Using the step-son of Prime Minister Najib to gain entry, Jho schemed with or conned whomever crossed his path including the corrupt Prime Minister of Malaysia and his spend-happy wife, Goldman Sachs, a couple of Saudi and other princes, Paris Hilton and Leonard Decaprio plus a host of other stars and millionaires as well as old a couple of old buddies. Low was involved in international banking and securities, Hollywood, the music scene, and fantastically expensive art, jewelry, yachts and homes.

Then his tangled web and the powers that be caught up to his shenanigans, but they didn’t catch him. He remains at large, probably somewhere in China.

According to Amazon, Bill Gates apparently found Low’s story “thrilling” and although I wasn’t quite so impressed for the first third, the narrative steadily builds to a “thriller” type ending. The book only hints at sex, but high-dollar partying is featured where necessary. In that way it’s kind of like “The Wof of Wall Street,” the movie Low helped finance. (I’ve neither read the book nor seen the movie.)

As I read I got a bit bored and/or confused sometimes because there are so many names and financial dealings. But on finishing I was so glad I’d read it. The publishing date was September 2018 and much has transpired since then. Googling various names to see how the case has progressed has been fascinating.

In the news: https://pagesix.com/2019/07/15/wolf-of-wall-street-producer-returning-14m-over-malaysian-money-scandal/

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/malaysia-police-chief-jho-low-location-sage-return-11562412

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Paradise Valley ~ by C.J. Box

The is the last of a 4-book series I just started with #3 but that was gory but riveting This one though was gorier but engrossing enough for me to finish. I’m glad there’s not anthers one.

Here’s the publisher blurb:


*******
Paradise Valley
by C.J. Box
2019/ 350 pages
read by Christina Delaine – 10h 6m
rating: B+ / crime thriller
(A Highway Quartet Novel #4)
*******

She almost caught him once. Now, he’s back.

For three years, Investigator Cassie Dewell has been on a hunt for a serial killer known as the Lizard King whose hunting grounds are the highways and truck stops where runaways and prostitutes are most likely to vanish. Cassie almost caught him…once. 

Working for the Bakken County, North Dakota sheriff’s department, Cassie has set what she believes is the perfect trap and she has lured him and his truck to a depot. But the plan goes horribly wrong, and the blame falls on Cassie. Disgraced, she loses her job and investigation into her role is put into motion.

At the same time, Kyle Westergaard, a troubled kid whom Cassie has taken under her wing, has disappeared after telling people that he’s going off on a long-planned adventure. Kyle’s grandmother begs Cassie to find him and, with nothing else to do, Cassie agrees—all the while hunting the truck driver. 

Now Cassie is a lone wolf. And in the same way that two streams converge into a river, Kyle’s disappearance may have a more sinister meaning than anyone realizes. With no allies, no support, and only her own wits to rely on, Cassie must take down a killer who is as ruthless as he is cunning. But can she do it alone, without losing her own humanity or her own life?

***
I think that’s about as much violence as I I can take. I’m going for something cozy next time.

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The Book of Night Women ~ by Marlon James

I was tempted by this book back in 2017 after reading James’ Booker Prize winner A Brief History of Seven Killings but I procrastinated until I finally nominated it for a Booker Group read. Here I am.

This is a long and intense book so I took frequent breaks as I listened and read. The subject matter is quite grim. There is more violence than in Blood Meridian but not nearly as much history or good writing. Nonetheless it’s brilliant in its own way – if you can skim some of the brutality.

*******
The Book of Night Women
by Marlon James
2009 / 444 pages
read by Robin Miles – 15h 45m
rating: 9 / historical fiction
(read and listened)

*******

Jamaica, in 1800-1801 was a sugar-cane colony belonging to England. African slaves were introduced during Spanish rule and a few had escaped bondage during the transition to create their own separate and independent society – the Maroons.

This book opens in 1800 with a green-eyed girl, named Lilith by her owner, killing another slave and being transferred to another plantation. Someone else was killed as punishment for Lilith’s crime.

The story moves from there to the relationships between the slave women, one old European woman. and a few European men as well as other matters of the plantations. The main slave woman other than Lilith is Homer who hails from Africa, is older and quite a leader.

Lilith is quite independent minded and never knew her mother or father although it becomes apparent that her mother died and her father is a white overseer of some sort on the plantation. She becomes Homer’s “daughter” in many ways but also struggles against her.

Naturally some complications arise in terms of “race” or ethnicity and so on with Blacks, Creoles, Mulattos, and Whites tangling and loving and murdering. The main theme is revenge I suppose. And what happens to morality when people are damaged beyond recognition – maybe beyond redemption.

It’s a good book but not for the faint of heart. I would have put it right down had it been by an author less skilled with language ( Jamaican patois and some British) and the nuances of all sorts of relationships between field and house slaves, male and female slaves plus owners and overseers and disciplinarians and British wives and mulatto lovers and the whole gamut. There are old resentments and new jealousies plus changing alliances and various enemies thrown together with love and babies and killing and some religious practices from the original continents.

The book probably needs two readings at least but I’m afraid there’s just too much very graphic violence of all kinds, sexuaall and war-type and accidental as well as one-on-one vengeance, for me to do it.

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The Best People ~ by Alexander Nazaryan

Reading The Fifth Risk a second time it felt more like the series of Vanity Fair articles it stemmed from than an organized book of its own. It was good though, and it piqued my interest about other cabinet members and their departments.

The Best People has the most of the answer to those queries. Alexander Nazaryan, a regular contributor to Newsweek, shows the reader what happened in the other departments from the time when Trump’s “beachhead” group landed in the departments and who their secretaries were, to when that first “best” leader fell from grace. Most of the original cabinet secretaries and their departments are covered to some degree, but not all.

*******
The Best People: Trump’s Cabinet and the Siege on Washington
by Alexander Nazaryan
2019 / 305 pages
read by Robert Faaas – 9h 15m
rating: 9.5
******* 

This group of “best people” seems to have one similarity – they’re supporters of the Trump agenda – with one first goal; they are to get rid of anything from the Obama era. Also, for the most part, they are rich by inheritance with upscale education and some political experience.

Naroyan writes well and he’s seriously opposed to Trump but not blindly. This is a very good look inside the lives of the Cabinet members and their respective departments.

Michael Lewis wrote a fine book with The Fifth Risk but it was basically 3 related essays focusing on only three departments and tied up with a Prologue. The Best People develops the same general idea with more departments.

If you’re interested in reading about the current administration’s journey this is a good one to add to your collection.

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A Matter of Will ~ by

I’ve read Mitzner’s legal thrillers before and very much enjoyed them so I pretty much snapped this up.

Will Matthews seems to be less than the up-and-coming young financial broker he dreamed of until one day he meets Sam Abbadon, the man who will make his dream career come true. The next day he meets the woman, Gwen Lipton, who seems to be the one to light up his life. Gwen is a financial lawyer and has just been given the case which will make her name.



*******
A Matter of Will
by Adam Mitzner
2019 / 304 pages
read by Will Damron 8h 18m
rating: A+ / legal crime
*********


Primarily we follow the lives of Will and Gwen as they deal with Sam and Eve, Will’s girlfriend, and get caught up in their disturbingly different world. The book starts out suspenseful with a big hint of dangerous and Mitzner skillfully builds that into a real page-turning oil-burner.

Before you know it, Will is involved in million dollar deals for Sam and very nice bonuses at his brokerage. So Sam and the brokerage both have hooks in him. Then Will witnesses first-hand a criminal act of the most violent kind.

Meanwhile, Gwen is getting deeper into a case she’s been fortuitously assigned which involves the murder of the wife of a famous movie star. The star was arrested but Gwen believes and is given assurance that he is innocent.

As I said, the tension starts out on low, but steadily ramps up to high in a plot which becomes nicely twisted. The characters are relatively believable although nothing special there. It’s a fun book.

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The Fifth Risk ~ by Michael Lewis x2

I read this back in October (my review on this site), but the All-Nonfiction Group chose it for this month. I’ve been rereading it as I truly appreciated the book the first time. Michael Lewis has a way of explaining very complex matters in a very comprehensible way. The Usual government is notoriously complex.


*******
The Fifth Risk

by  Michael Lewis
2018/ 221 pages
read by Victor Bevine
rating:   8 / current events 
*******

My first review is pretty comprehensive so if you’re interested in the brief story of how Trump is mangling the US government go there. The book is basically a look at how the Departments of Energy, Agriculture and Commerce went through their own “transition” periods and have changed for the worse (if you support their viable existence at all).

The Fifth Risk describes the incalculable risk that actual “project management” will be incompetent. Trump has installed Department heads who are, as is Trump, not terribly concerned about effective departments because they don’t like the departments.

I’ll only add to it by saying that Trump seems to be incompetently getting what he and his appointees want done. They’re turning the federal government from what they see as a swamp of massive departments with expensive and debilitating regulations to massive departments whose regulations are ignored, unenforced, or changed on whim and expediency. Trump’s group doesn’t even give them personnel.

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The Satapur Moonstone ~ by Sujata Massey

This is the second in the Perveen Mistry series by Sujata Massey. The first was The Widows of Malabar Hill which I enjoyed so much and it felt like it was a good start for a series. Unfortunately, The Satapur Moonstone is just okay.



*******
The Satapur Moonstone
by Sujata Massey
2019 / 361 pages
read by Sneha Mathan 12h 1m
rating: C / historical fiction – legal
*******

I’m not sure why I didn’t care for it. The plot was really standard for Agatha Christie lovers, which I was many years ago. The characters are well enough developed, but not really interesting. The setting, historical and cultural, were the best things and they were rather standard. The writing was satisfactory but again, nothing special. Sorry.

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Pastoral ~ by Andes Alexis

This is the first of what is known as The Quincunx Cycle – 5 books by the Canadian author, Andres Alexis . I read The Hidden Keys a couple months ago and was delighted with it. But then I discovered that was the 4th book (3rd published) in the group so I backtracked for number one. (This is NOT a series – the books are not related by characters or plot. They seem to be only very loosely connected by theme but even that is vague. The connections are supposed to come in Book 3, Th Ring, which will be published some time in 2020.

*******
Pasoral
by Andre Alexis
2014 / 164 pages
read by André Alexis
rating – 9 / “religious” fiction
*******

Father Christopher Pennant, a young priest, has been newly assigned to a small parish in the rural southern Ontario town of Barrow. The town is small and gossipy but the residents take a liking to the thoughtful and non-judgmental Father Pennant.

The narrative changes thread and we meet Elizabeth Denny who Is engaged to Robbie Meyers, but Robbie is apparently having an affair with, and ini love Jane Richardson, a young woman discontented with life in Barrow and she is really playing with Robbie.

The first person Pennant meets is his household helper Louder Williams who has a strange life playing a cello and being a lowly almost free laborer.

The important themes are running through the narrative include faith. love, nature, identity and death. It’s a short but powerful book and it’s beautifully written.

There’s something about this book which reminds me of Alice Munro – maybe it’s because both artists (and that’s what they are) seem to have been inspired by the natural setting.

The book is said to be based on Beethoven’s Sixth (Pastoral) Symphony although I don’t know enough to say.

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A Death in Live Oak ~ by James Grippando

*******
A Death in Live Oak
by James Grippando
2018 / 375 pagees
read by Jonathan Davis – 12h 6m
rating: A+ / legal – courtroom drama

(Jack Swyteck series # __)
*******

I read one book by Grippando a long time ago and really enjoyed it but I never got back for a second helping. Alas – it’s been too long now because I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed it.

On the downside, it does get gritty and it’s long. Bu there’s far more to the upside than the down.

The plot concerns an up-and-coming young, man, the president of a fraternity at the University of Florida. But Matt Townsend, age 21, finds himself framed for the lynching (yes) death of the black president of another fraternity at the University of Florida. The evidence against Matt is strong, but there is more than one suspect including friends of Matt and outsiders. Jack Swytech is left to sort it all out and make his points in the courtroom while his wife ends up working a related case for the FBI.

The tension is very well done and it builds nicely with threaded plot lines to the point that the cliff-hanger chapter endings aren’t really necessary but they don’t get in the way.

The whole story line gets quite complex so I won’t go into details because there would likely be spoilers, but I will say that there is plenty of both courtroom drama plus a few rather gritty thriller scenes here, along with some history thrown in to bring things together.

I look forward to another in the Swytech series but it may be awhile – they’re intense and complex – and long.

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The Scholar ~ by Dervla McTiernan

Recommended by a friend in a reading group I’d also read The Ruin, McTiiernan’s first novel and the first in the series, a few years ago and quite enjoyed it. This seemed like a little change of pace.

Emma finds a seriously mangled woman dead in the road outside Darcy Therapeutics near the Galway University campus. The woman was apparently the victim of a hit-and-run. Emma calls her boyfriend, DS Cormac Reilly. On later examination the ID of Carline Darcy is found on the woman, but no other identifying features, including her face.

******
The Scholar
by Dervla Mctiernan
2019/331 pages
read by Aoife5 McMahon – 10h 19m
rating: A++ / procedural
*******

Carline is heir apparent to the immense Darcy family fortune, but she’s at home, safe and sound, when Reilly comes to call and says she’s been home all evening. Her death is quite a shock to her especially as her grandfather has a been called.

It’s a hairy tale of greed and scholarship, full of twists and great writing, nicely developed characters and a skillfully executed plot line.

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