Archive for April, 2012


Monday, April 30th, 2012

By Lisa Brackman

The Short Take:

I read this one in a single day — it is that riveting. Brackman has written a mystery thriller with an unusually normal heroine. Neither beautiful,  athletic, nor skilled, Michelle is a 30-something widow trying to figure out her life on a getaway in Puerto Vallarta. An impulsive date sweeps her into a whirlwind of danger, intrigue, and drugs. She can’t trust anyone and she doesn’t know how to escape. At last — a real woman thinking and acting in a believable way in an extraordinary situation. Yippee!


Alfred Hitchcock would have bought the film rights to this in a flash. It’s got the key elements of many of his classic movies. Michelle is an average person who does one seemingly innocuous thing (the date is her MacGuffin) that puts her in a situation where she can not turn to the authorities for help nor any of the people she has met — including the attractive man she went out with.

With nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, she is manipulated by forces on two opposing sides. Or are they really on the same side? Are they good guys or bad guys? Nothing is sure in this tightly written, fast paced adventure. Brackman reinvents the usual suspicious characters with refreshingly new personalities and appearances. The plot works solidly from start to finish. Yep, Hitchcock would have loved this one.

This should be a popular beach read this summer — one that’s guaranteed to dissuade you from making bad choices due to frosty drinks. But unlike the book Michelle had in hand when she opted for that second margarita, you won’t want to put this one down.

A Little Plot:

Michelle’s life in L.A. has fallen apart. A pre-paid vacation in Puerto Vallarta seems an ideal opportunity to think and regroup. When handsome Daniel approaches her on the beach, she impulsively agrees to drinks and dinner; and then decides to bring him to her room.  During the night two burglars break in, ransacking their bags and delivering a nasty head wound to Danny.

After he is rushed to the hospital, Michelle discovers their cell phones have gotten mixed up. As she attempts to correct the switch, she encounters Gary. He acts like he’s helping her but soon has her ensnared in a plot to spy on Danny. Or else. And, that “or else” could mean her very life.

There’s drugs, thugs, black ops, conspiracies, murders, and much more to come. But you’ll have to read the book if you want to know more. And, you should read the book.

To learn more about Lisa Brackman her her books, click here.

The Marriage Plot

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

By Jeffrey Eugenides

The Short Take:

This book threw so many high-minded concepts about literature and philosophy at me, I began to think I simply wasn’t smart enough to read it. Instead, I decided to let all the talk about semiotics, Barthes, Derrida, tropes, and the like to just flow over me and focus on the love triangle that formed the heart of the story. Turned out that worked just fine. Plus,my natural curiosity led me to Google a lot of those unknowns, so now I am ever-so-slightly more educated. That’s good, too.


Wow! There was an awful lot of  discussion about literary theories early on in this book. It really bogged down what was actually an interesting love triangle, with two young men and one woman trying to reconcile the image their hearts held of their respective loved ones with the less-desirable reality. Maybe serious literary critics found this enlightening, but to me it was simply a distraction (yes, I am shallow).

All this talking also tended to make the characters feel far too cerebral and not very — well — human. All this does not mean i didn’t like the book, it just wasn’t the absolute wonder Eugenides’ Middlesex was.

I did like how the author finally broke from the heroine’s point of view and started advancing the plot through the eyes on the man she loved and then the man who loved her. And, though others might be disappointed in the ending, I found it very satisfying.

By the way, that wedding ring on the cover is a mobius strip. Interesting.

A Little Plot:

Three Brown University students are close to graduation. English major Madeleine has no idea what to do with her future and is smarting from her recent break-up with the charismatic and brilliant Leonard. Leonard plans to pursue an advanced science degree but is worried about his financial situation and has a secret problem, too. Meanwhile, Madeleine’s long-time friend, Mitchell (who would like to be much more), is contemplating furthering his study of religion and philosophy.

Since the book jumps back and forth in time, it’s hard to say more without giving away too much.

I couldn’t easily find an author/book website, but if you want to more about Eugenides or this book, you can go to an interesting article by clicking here.

Taft 2012

Friday, April 13th, 2012

By Jason Heller

The Short Take:

This slim novel is a welcome and enjoyable counterbalance to this actual election year. It was a delight. It seems William Howard Taft has reappeared (just accept it and move on) and Americans are clamoring for him to run for President. Since he only served one term, he’s certainly eligible; but are people really embracing his standard or are they assuming he represents their own — much narrower — interests?


A little background: Taft (a Republican) was hand-picked by Teddy Roosevelt to follow in his giant-sized footsteps. However, before Taft’s first term was over, Roosevelt was fighting him and went on to form a third party, the Bull Moose Party. Taft was defeated and Woodrow Wilson became President

This is all fact. The fantasy is that Taft disappeared on the day of Woodrow’s inauguration, never to be seen again until he shows up, no older, on the White House lawn in 2011. What follows is a light-hearted take on all the hype, the conjectures, the media, the special interests, the campaign contributions, and even some of the issues of a modern presidential campaign.

Taft’s reactions to the modern world, his wonderful personality and surprising humility, along with his gigantic appetite are all on prominent display. He’s a great character and thoroughly dominates the book.

You can take this book as a serious comment on our times (along with the author’s obvious issue with over-manufactured food), but it is delivered in such an appealing matter that you can also just enjoy the fun. Think The Daily Show in book form and you get the general idea.

A Little Plot:

Taft reappears after a 100-year disappearance and Americans not only accept that, they lionize him. Within days a Taft Party forms even though Taft has not said he would run. Meanwhile, Taft is coping with a brave new world of computers, cell phones, and dramatic social changes. He is also having problems with some indigestible modern food items.

Of course, Taft shows all the wisdom of a Frank Capra film hero as he comes to grips with today’s politics, cities, and people; all  while determing just where he fits in — and if he should run for President.

If you want to more know, Heller (or his publisher) has a very clever website about Taft as if he were actually here and running. It’s certainly worth at least a few minutes of your time. Just click here to visit.



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April 2012