Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Debut Novel by Steven Rappaport

If Jack Had
by Steven Rappaport

About If Jack Had:
"What's the difference between a serial killer and an assassin? A pay check."

Jack is a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist with a secret second job. Since he was a smart-ass grad student slinking around New York’s Upper West Side and Brighton Beach, he’s been working as an assassin for the Russian mob.

Beginning at the end – that is, with an aged, incontinent, and at last truly alone Jack, his mind made up that tomorrow will be the first day he kills someone he loves: himself – If Jack Had [Black Rose Writing, June 4 2015] tells his story in rear view, providing an all-access-pass into the enviable, high-flying life he clear-cut for himself against all odds…and the (literal) trail of dead he left along the way.

The debut novel from sixty-eight-year-old Manhattan author Steve Rappaport, If Jack Had is, much like its protagonist, more than meets the eye. A caper comedy featuring sex and drugs, blasphemy and blood, far-flung exotic locales and all the other stuff that makes for good, not-so-clean fun, If Jack Had also happens to have a big, beating heart. Beneath the surface, it’s a meditation on family, fatherhood, the indignities of aging, the inevitability of loneliness, and the preciousness of life itself.

My Thoughts on the book:

I was contacted by Mr. Rappaport's publicist at the end of April asking if I would be interested in participating in a blog tour for the release of his debut novel. After reading the press release and publicity information I was intrigued by the story and I agreed to read the book and provide an honest review.

Mysteries. Thrillers. Time Travel. Those are my go to genres. I believe If Jack Had would fall into the first two categories easily. There was mystery. It was a bit of a thriller knowing Jack's secret throughout the book, but this book just did not keep my attention. In all honesty, I think I began to get lost very early in the book because of the timeline. The book starts at the end, however we are never clearly told the time period. Based on the description, the reader is lead to believe the book is taking place in the present time. However, little pieces of information dropped along the way make you believe the story begins after 2055. 

Let me explain my reasoning here because I'm sure some will say I've lost my mind. Hints are dropped along the way about the horrible upbringing Jack has with his parents because, "...they were kids themselves and screwed up ones. They were barely 18 when I was born. I had stolen the Sixties from them." So, here we learn Jack is born in the 1960s. It is not for another 75 pages we learn that Jack was born around 1965 as his stepmother reminisces about the first time she met the lonely little boy.

So, going back to the beginning of the book (which is really the end) I learn that Jack marries his high school sweetheart, Sara Beth. [I believe this is the correct spelling of Jack's wife's name. I recall at least one instance where her name was combined as Sarabeth. Reading from an advanced readers copy, this could easily be a typo that was later corrected.] Not long into the book we learn that Sara Beth dies at the age of 90. Herein lies my conclusion of the time frame for the story. If Jack is born in 1965 (his mother was in high school in 1964 and she was 18 when Jack was born) and his high school sweetheart wife "died a few years ago at 90", one would assume he is at least close to her age at the end, I mean beginning of the book, making him about 93, or older.

The movement of time in the book is not linear. That is definitely not a problem for me because I LOVE time travel books. However, with no definitive time frame mentioned with each chapter, I found the story confusing. I needed chapter headings or some other tool to track the time so I didn't have to guess.

To be fair, I am a very critical reader. I read every single word. I don't skip words, sentences, or paragraphs. I feel if the author felt the need to write the word, it needs to be read. For Mr. Rappaport's debut novel challenged my tendencies. In fact, I contacted his publicity asking a very specific timeline question concerning the book because I was confused while reading. The response I got really did not help me as I attempted to finish the book. I say attempted because after many tries I simply could not finish.

About the Author:

Steven Rappaport, age 68, has been a stock trader, pot dealer, itinerant hippie peddler, cab driver, retailer, and is currently a successful commercial real estate salesperson in Manhattan. He offers a simple rationale for his first novel: “My eldest son, Jack, died at forty from a progressively debilitating, unknown neurological disorder. This brilliant boy, a Vassar grad, never got to live the life he deserved. I’ve infused him with one.”

I know Mr. Rappaport wrote this book in order to give his son a legacy, but I truly believe he might have been better off by sharing this novel with Jack's family and friends. I have to think there are a number of inside jokes or familiar stories woven within this novel which we, as outsiders, simply cannot understand. I applaud Mr. Rappaport the courage to put himself out there by writing this novel. I'm sure it had to be heartbreaking to lose a son, but also want so desperately to create a "What If" novel for his child.

This book was not for me. It might be a great novel for someone else, but to be fair to my readers I have to provide an honest and truthful review.

If Jack Had [Black Rose Writing] is available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and in brick-and-mortar bookstores nationwide as of June 4, 2015.

Find If Jack Had on Goodreads and at http://ifjackhad.com.

**To comply with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Smith Publicity, Inc. has provided a complimentary copy of If Jack Had for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the author, publicist, or publishing company and is solely my opinion.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Meltzer Delivers

The President's Shadow
by Brad Meltzer
"A severed arm, found buried in the White House Rose Garden. A lethal message with terrible consequecnes for the Presidency. And a hidden secret in one family's past that will have repercussions for the entire nation."

If you are a history buff and have not read Brad Meltzer here is your chance to read a master of the historical conspiracy thriller. The Culper Ring Series: The Inner Circle (2011), The Fifth Assassin (2013), and now The President's Shadow (2015) further establishes Meltzer as an incredible storyteller. His abilty to capture history and make you question all you have learned is masterful.

Beecher White works as an archivist at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. His job is to protect some of our countries most important and valuable documents. He is also a member of the Culper Ring, a secret society established by President George Washington over 200 years ago in order to protect the Presidency. There are secrets in our country's history, but once we uncover those secrets, they can never be hidden again.

In the third installment of the Culper Ring Series, Brad Meltzer delivers the thrills and excitement his fans have come to love. I highly recommend the series and especially this exciting thrill ride of a tale.

The President's Shadow is currently available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It will be released tomorrow, June 16th. Meltzer is also currently on a book tour across the country. Check out his site to see if he is going to be at a location near you.

**To comply with guidelines set forth by the Federal Trade Commission, Grand Central Publishing has provided a complimentary electronic copy of The President's Shadow for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the author or publishing company and is solely my opinion.