Review: Camino Island

Camino IslandCamino Island by John Grisham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Camino Island
By John Grisham

Reviewed by Jay Gilbertson

A beach read novel of pure catnip for book lovers. Be warned, you may experience a sudden loss of time with this high-brow mystery set on an island off the coast of Florida. Ridiculously famous author Grisham waved a literary wand and combined Marco and Amelia Island into his clever Camino creation.
The premise of this twisty who stole it mystery is built on the fact that the Princeton Rare Books and Special Collections department has five original F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts. Though heavily secured behind thick, bullet-proof vault doors, they are pinched by a gang of five buddies that honestly should have stuck to deer hunting. The heist becomes the catalyst that rolls out and rocks the boat down on Camino Island.
Cue the marimba!
Meet struggling professor and long ago published author, Mercer Mann, the adjunct professor of freshman literature at the University of North Carolina. Her position has recently been eliminated and her future employment opportunities are relatively non-existent. An intriguing email drops into Mercer’s lap from a mysterious woman offering her an interesting alternative. Elaine Shelby not only offers Mercer a cushy job, but the stakes are cranked ten-fold with an opportunity to once and for all finish an old manuscript. Naturally, the caveat for acceptance of Shelby’s proposal are complex, full of risk and loaded with wine.
“We’re under a lot of pressure, okay? I have no idea what you might learn, but at this point anything could be helpful. There’s a good chance Cable and his wife will reach out to you, perhaps even befriend you. You could slowly work your way into their inner circle. He also drinks a lot. Maybe he’ll let something slip; maybe one of his friends will mention the vault in the basement below the store.”
Shelby works for a security and investigations company that insured the Fitzgerald collection for Princeton, to the tune of 25 million, and absolutely can’t allow the public to know they were stolen. Enter Bruce Cable, owner of an incredibly successful bookstore on Camino Island. Our featured suspect and most likely new owner of the Fitzgerald Five. Of course, an attractive dude, and had I mentioned Mercer is single? Shelby wants her to get close to Cable and learn what he’s got in his vault. Boy does she!
“This came from Princeton.” He opened the box, and announced proudly, “The original manuscript of The Last Tycoon.” Mercer’s jaw dropped as she stared in disbelief and eased closer. She tried to speak but couldn’t find the words.”
The novel’s minor discussion about books and publishing may place a minuscule snag in your reading pleasure, but this small authorial indiscretion can be easily overlooked. I realize Grisham normally whips up a frenzy of courtroom dramas with lawyer layered lowdowns, but this sand-in-your toes tome will take you away.

In the end, you learn, life is not your vault.

View all my reviews

Do YOU Know What A Sandbakkel Is?

At every meal my dad says the Norwegian Table Prayer. Then he always follows it by saying, “Grab a root and growl.” I have always simply assumed that is pretty much part of the prayer too. At least if you want to eat at his table, it is.




Another one that has been going on since I can remember is the creation of Sandbakkels every Christmas season. Using the same recipe (that mom has tweaked) my dad’s mom’s mom used and with my dad mentioning before we sit down at the card table to ‘pinch’ the dough into tins,


“No pinchy, no eaty!”


Really. Every. Single. Year.


Once the little gems are in the oven and we’re working on pan two or three, I wonder why in the world I do this. It’s a lot of work and you have to sit still and then, once my dad is all warmed up and we’re there, his audience, I realize the why part.


Being together.


So, this coming year I will once again gather at my folks, my mom will have made the dough, adding the secret ingredient at the last moment and then off we’ll pinch and my dad will begin sharing the same stories I’ve heard a hundred times and I’ll look up and smile…


By the way, a Sandbakkel is a Norwegian cookie and no, we don’t fill them with anything. These are the tins we pinch them into.


(walnut-size blob of dough and pinch and pinch and pinch)

November and NO Snow—Nice…



This is our front door and those awesome sunflowers we grew from seed. Even at my age I still feel there’s a touch of magic in growing things. It just never ceases to amaze me that you can grow something so darn beautiful from a little seed that fits in your palm.


Love the mystery of it.


Could be why I enjoy the art and freedom and yes, mystery of writing. When the words are flying into my head and zipping through my fingers and onto the laptop-page, well trust me, I feel something. Not a believer in having a muse or wearing a lucky hat or all that other stuff so many authors seem to lean on. I simply read a poem to warm up, or gaze at a bouquet of wild flowers or sneak a look out my window, and if things are unfolding with my story in all the right ways (or wrong) off I zoom!


If the words are not lined up and ready to move onto the page, I get up and do something else. If I force the work—that’s exactly how it will read.


So, if inspiration doesn’t come into your current project—


Know that in the spring the seeds will grow again and somewhere—the sun is always shining.

Get Hoppy—It’s National Frog Month!


Welcome to spring and maybe to your first time over here in/on/with my personal website. It’s hard to know precisely how much effort to load into this baby since I am a trusty Facebook dude and post over there constantly. But don’t ask my mom, she is rarely on. Too busy.


Yet here I can expand more and not feel as though the entire world (wishful thinking, I would imagine) is going to pop in and place judgement. Being National Frog Month I will hop around a tad, taking advantage of this silly premise because as everyone knows, every day is Frog day—or rather Toad Time!


I am partial to toads.


Frogs, in my book, can take a leap.




They tend to be on the slimy side and have only croaks and ribbits to share where’s toads tend toward handing out warts and hop more than swim and certainly are more into hanging in the garden than splashing around in the pond—pad-to-pad—as it were.


And since we’re on the subject, (you started this after all, hopping over here) I really find it rather odd why on earth folks munch frog legs and then, on top of it all, say the most ridiculous things such as:


“…Tastes like chicken!” Usually with a miniature Kermit-like foot hanging from their surly lips. Is that what a lion murmurs finishing off a human?


These and other priceless gems are what you get to devour when you hop on over to this webpage. And don’t forget to add your very own comments and thoughts and ideas of things you’d like to know more about and skip the frog recipes please and that would go double time for toad.


Now hop outside and don’t forget to take a book!





The number uno-selling genre in the entire universe, no lie, is ROMANCE. Well, and a rather new one often referred to as ‘Mom Porn’. That would mainly be the hugely popular Fifty Shades of—S & M. I have to admit, I have yet to read it, or them as there are three and now a movie. Good for the author and she certainly put a face on the self-publishing world.


Then we have this month of February and the 14th in particular and all the Hallmark cards and candy and roses and dinners out.


Why? Why do we go bonkers for the 14th? Is it romance or the love part or what?


Let’s delve a little deeper and simply do some wondering and along the way I think we’ll find our answer.




So, you’ve read author Nicholas Spark’s ‘The Notebook’, seen the movie (more than once, maybe) and who in the world hasn’t daydreamed of being ‘rescued’ from this thing called life? Strife, more like. For some it seems logging onto Zoosk (weird name people) or eHarmony or Rural-Singles-Look-Here is the answer to love. Or not.


Sure, folks want to read about love, but the actual doing love part? Not so much. So let’s give ‘em more romance. Write on!


More than half of us are now living alone. Tons and tons of people watching Netflix solo. And guess what, they’re loving it! What does it all mean? Maybe the reason romance is this huge genre is that it’s so much easier (less mess, let’s be honest here) living alone.


So—if you are single and as the 14th rolls around, give yourself a Valentine. Take yourself out for a really nice dinner, buy you some roses and a big box of chocolates and leave a lipstick smack on your own mirror!


Think of all the money/time/heartache you’ll save yourself (and your family) from.


Because, after all, YOU are never alone…sorry Mister Sparks.